Women are excelling across a wide range of sectors in engineering, as demonstrated by this list of current and former apprentices
In the UK in 2017, some 11% of engineers were women – but given this figure stood at just 6% in 2011, education and training in science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) seems to be making headway. The latest figures from the Women into Science and Engineering (Wise) campaign show that the number of women working in core Stem careers (including engineering) rose by more than 60,000 between 2016 and 2017.
After the government launched its new “trailblazer” scheme in 2013 to initiate industry-set standards in apprenticeships, these pathways have played a key role in better representation for women in engineering. Nevertheless, while women currently make up approximately 12% of engineers in the UK, just over 7% of engineering apprentices are female.
This year’s Top 50 Women in Engineering highlights 22 current and 28 former apprentices at the forefront of UK engineering, from HS2 to Typhoon jets and the 5G rollout. It was put together by the Women’s Engineering Society (WES), a charity that celebrates its centenary this year. Elizabeth Donnelly, its CEO, says: “We want a world where women are as likely as men to choose an engineering career, and it can be seen from this list that women are excelling across an impressive range of sectors.”
Katrina-Rose Allen Apprentice engineer, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) Ltd Current apprentice
Now in the third year of her apprenticeship, Allen has already become a role model for apprenticeship hopefuls. After she appeared in one of GTR’s videos, her story was featured in Metro and the Evening Standard, and on BBC Surrey radio. Colleagues noted that applications from women for next year’s scheme are up by more than 200%.
Natalie Asimeng-Gyan Engineering apprentice, GSK Current apprentice
After joining GSK’s automation team last year [May 2018], Asimeng-Gyan didn’t take long to impress colleagues. On a critical cross-site project, she learned to configure control systems, follow wiring diagrams and work successfully with external suppliers and contractors. The project went on to win an industry award. Now in her second year, Asimeng-Gyan has gone on to represent GSK on projects in Europe and at careers events to promote its apprenticeship scheme.
Natalie Atherton Zone operations manager, Sodexo Former apprentice
Atherton impressed from the start: after completing an apprenticeship at AstraZeneca, she won sponsorship for a degree, graduating in 2015. Now a chartered building services engineer, she manages a £15m warehouse – one of AstraZeneca’s key assets – for Sodexo. In charge of 12 staff and responsible for managing facilities across the site, including automation, Atherton is passionate about mentoring women who’ve transitioned into the industry from facilities management.
Abbie Beaver Apprentice fabricator/welder, ADI Group Current apprentice
Beaver joined a pre-apprenticeship programme at 14 and then the ADI Group two years later as its first-ever female apprentice. Her tenacity sets her apart, and last year she became one of six female engineers for WES’s campaign to promote engineering to primary school-age girls.
Jacinta Caden Business development (Europe), Critical Project Services Former apprentice
Of all the fields in engineering, refrigeration remains one of the poorest for equal representation. Caden is the fourth woman ever appointed to the board of the 119-year-old Institute of Refrigeration (IOR), and now sits on the IOR’s steering group for women in the sector. Her experience also provided key insight for developing its new trailblazer standards for apprenticeships in the sector.
Sophie Caffrey Technical apprentice, Leonardo Current apprentice
Though only in her fourth year, Caffrey has already designed printed circuit boards that have been used in trials across the world. Last year, she was selected by Naomi Campbell to star in a Nike advert alongside nine other young women, whose work disrupted cultural stereotypes. She is studying for a degree in electronic engineering.
Emily Carr Apprentice electrical/instrumentation technician, GSK Current apprentice
Carr was recently shortlisted for a “young talent in the chemical industry” award for her work as a Stem ambassador in schools and was recently selected to develop her leadership skills on a Fieri course. Now in the third year of an HNC programme, she hopes to become an industry technician on completion.
Rachael Carr Senior systems engineer, BAE Systems Former apprentice
After Carr joined BAE in 2006, she moved swiftly through the company into a senior engineering role, where she leads on key responsibilities including platform airworthiness certification. A former BAE apprentice of the year, Carr is now a mentor and performance coach to the next generation of women at BAE.
Nicole Chamberlain Automation and MES engineer, Nestlé Former apprentice
When Chamberlain started out, she was one of just three women in a 100-person cohort, and the only female engineer in her workplace. But it was her dedication rather than her gender that stood out – most obviously in her final year, when she was nominated for a future manufacturing award. Chamberlain now sits on the board of governors for Nestlé’s apprenticeship scheme and mentors young women at her site. She is studying for a degree in electrical and electronic engineering.
Melissa Chigubu Apprentice, Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) Current apprentice
Chigubu learned her first engineering skills thanks to her uncles in Zimbabwe, and on moving to the UK in 2012 she joined the MTC’s apprenticeship scheme. She has since been named apprentice of the month three times, and was the first woman to complete the foundation course.
Heather Clarke Trustee, Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) Former apprentice
Clarke’s career was shaped by not one, but two apprenticeships – one technical, and one voluntary. At British Railways, building the Medway rail bridge and Heathrow Express line gave her hands-on experience, and in 2006 she become a chartered engineer. In 2007, she joined the IMechE as a president’s apprentice, and 10 years later was elected as a trustee.
Lisa-Jayne Cook Senior sales and applications engineer, Aqua Temperature Control Solutions Former apprentice
As an apprentice, Cook was one of the star pupils on her BTec, and was named a finalist in RAC’s student of the year awards in 2004. Her passion for learning persisted: in her nomination, colleagues at Aqua praised Cook’s commitment to training junior engineers.
Dr Katherine Critchley Configuration management BPM, Safran Seats Former apprentice
As an apprentice in the 1980s, Critchley gained valuable experience in computer-aided design. But after graduating from a master’s in the subject, she found it so hard to break back into engineering that she ended up working in a chocolate shop. Critchley then completed a PhD and developed a career in the aerospace sector, but her experience made her a vocal advocate for other “returners” in Stem.
Alexandra Ellis-Jones Junior engineer, GSK Former apprentice
Ellis-Jones has made significant cost savings through digital innovation at work. She’s also made great efforts to promote apprenticeships among senior business leaders at a Science Museum Late event – after-hours theme night – and in a film for the IET.
Jasmine Ewers Undergraduate engineer, WSP Current apprentice