It is known that women represent under 1/4 of the Manufacturing Industry – a predominently male sector.
We are here to celebrate our women, today’s topic – Female Apprentices in Manufacturing 💪
Why is this dear to us you ask? HanaTech is a female-led business of course, made up of Hana herself, and Shannon (myself) – the marketer. We feel passionate about speaking up on the representation of women in our industry (take a look at our 9 inspiring Women in Tech post here) and feel it should be celebrated in the lead up to International Women’s Day (March 8th)
The industry contributes towards every part of our country from travel, to automobiles, to consumerism and the economy; it’s the foundation of how the world works. The everyday average person may not notice it but from the second you wake up to the moment you go to sleep, Manufacturing has played a part of your day:
You get the idea.
But what creates a successful business starts with the people who are part of it – every staff member from every department plays an important role in keeping the cogs turning. Some employee’s may have been at their business from day 1 of leaving school, some may be part of a family business, others may have joined through a job vacancy.
Apprenticeships are generally associated with construction or engineering but there are so many out there for many different job sectors and it is a great way to start a career path with gaining important qualifications whilst physically gaining the experience.
Many young people today struggle to find a job role after university due to lack of experience; whilst they have the knowledge and qualifications, many companies look for more than that. A 2019 study shown that female apprentices in manufacturing are outnumbered 14-to-1 by their male peers.
In the current climate of the global pandemic, COVID-19 had risen the rate of unemployment and students are worried:
Research by UK-based graduate jobs website Milkround shows just 18% of graduates are securing jobs this year (2020) compared to the typical 60%**https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20200901-the-class-of-2020s-uncertain-present-and-future
We spoke to 3 female apprentices in Manufacturing businesses to find out more about their roles:
Raisa Matadar, a 23 year old Mechatronics Maintenance Technician at JLR paint shop based in Solihull, UK. Her daily tasks involve:
- Servicing and maintaining the sealer, paint robots and guns
- Attending breakdowns on the overhead and IPF conveyor systems that the vehicle bodies are transported on and carrying out fire safety audits
She has also led a team project based around cost saving and reducing energy usage.
Raisa has proudly won the following regional and national awards –
● ‘Top 50 Female Apprentices in Engineering by the Women’s Engineering Society in June 2019
● ‘Highly Commended’ at The Asian Apprenticeship Awards 2019
● ‘Rising Star’ at WorldSkills UK Diversity and Inclusion Awards
●Shortlisted for ‘Apprentice of The Year’ at Enginuity (SEMTA) in September 2020
What made you go down the route of an Apprenticeship rather than simply applying for job vacancies?
R: I really loved the academic aspect of school and sixth form! I enjoyed learning and wanted to try everything that I possibly could. My parents moved to the United Kingdom to give me and my brother a better chance at education and life that they had access to – so I always knew how important learning would be and the opportunities it would unlock for me.
It wasn’t until I completed a week of work experience with my brother, that I fell in love with engineering. My brother was the first in our family to choose to do an apprenticeship – everyone else before had taken the more traditional university route and everyone had expected me to do the same. Watching my older brother working with tools and machines, designing, creating and fixing aerospace components sparked an interest in me. The only difference was, he liked planes and I liked cars. I watched him build up his skill throughout his 4-year apprenticeship, gain a university degree and secure himself a job that he loved, all without the debt a traditional route would have added.
I began to research engineering firms around the midlands, and was surprised at the time to find that manufacturing jobs totalled to 8% of jobs in the UK – yet manufacturing careers were never talked about by our career advisors! Ultimately, I chose manufacturing as the process from design to manufacture excited me. Knowing that an idea on paper could be bought to life and used to solve real, everyday problems was something that I wanted to be a part of. Not only that, but manufacturing was everywhere! From food to transport, beauty products and agriculture.
What made you want to work for a huge manufacturer such as JLR?
R: I have been obsessed with Range Rovers since I was a little kid – this obsession carried onto my teens and I was convinced that one day I would own one. JLR, being Britain’s largest car manufacturer was only a short drive away from me. I applied to lots of different engineering companies but JLR stood out for me as my first choice.
My employer has also been extremely supportive in all of the extra-curricular activities that often take you away from ‘your day job’ as an apprentice. I have had the opportunity to travel abroad, regularly meet with MPs to discuss apprenticeships and I am asked to speak about my experience as a female engineer from different parts of the business regularly.
What are your thoughts on the lack of Women in Manufacturing/Engineering; why do you think this is?
R: I don’t feel like engineering is really presented as an opportunity to young women out there. I know that my careers advisors never talked to me about engineering, even though they knew that my brother had taken a similar path. I think manufacturing in general is still seen as a ‘man’s’ job.
I think a lot of it is to do with culture too. I have spoken to lots of women who entered the manufacturing sector in hands on roles and after a couple of years ended up in more office-based roles. Manufacturing is slowly increasing the number of intakes each year of female engineers, but its retention rates have a lot to do with the culture that can be deeply rooted within the sector.
If I had seen a woman of colour, working on machines and robots, and excelling in a predominantly white male workforce, it would’ve encouraged me to pursue the role I am in now much sooner. So I am a big believer in role models and the more positive female engineers we have out there, the less likely a young girl is going to doubt if the world of manufacturing is for her or not.
Jamie is a 24 year old Marketing and Communications Apprentice for AE Aerospace Ltd – a machine to print, subcontract precision machining company for the Aerospace, Marine & Defence industries based in Birmingham, UK. Since she started in 2020, she has already gained much knowledge about her company and what it means to be an SME in supply chain; she has even set up a TikTok account for AE Aerospace creating amazing content and increasing brand awareness!
What made you go down the route of an Apprenticeship rather than simply applying for job vacancies?
J: I had always thought I wanted to pursue a career in Psychology and did in fact obtain a degree in BSc Psychology in 2019. However, working as Public Relations Officer alongside my degree made me realise that I would rather build a career out of something I enjoy. During the first lockdown, I felt unfulfilled and unable to even secure an interview for marketing companies because I had 0 qualifications in the sector and going back into full time education was not ideal for me.
An apprenticeship was the best way forward as I was learning valuable skills whilst earning. It meant I could apply the digital marketing theory to the campaigns we were producing – gaining great experience. I wanted to find a role that had scope for development and some creative freedom in terms of the type of content I wanted to create, thus bringing me to my current role as Marketing and Communications Apprentice at AE Aerospace.
Why did you want to be in Manufacturing over other sectors?
J: When applying for Marketing Apprenticeships I was really open-minded about what sector I would like to work in.
This is initially what attracted me to AE in the interview stage, the welcoming nature of the team here really spoke to me. Furthermore, because AE Aerospace is an SME, I felt that I would be able to learn a lot here and there was also the opportunity to grow within the business. I like the creative freedom I have to try new ideas and also the opportunity to learn from my mistakes. Plus, it’s an aerospace company so maybe when all this is over we may be able to get on a plane somewhere!
Why do you think that there is a lack of female apprentices in manufacturing?
J: Honestly, I think a lot of females including myself can feel overwhelmed simply by the phrase ‘manufacturing sector’. It has been a male dominated industry as long as we can remember and to break into that can be scary! For instance, even now in 2021 ‘Lego friends’ is targeted towards girls whilst ‘Lego city’ is marketed to boys. This conditioning process sets a path for the types of careers different genders should go into…
I would like to believe change is coming, for instance we now have a female craft apprentice on the shop floor. I hope this encourages others who may be interested in aerospace engineering to take that step knowing that there is another female there too.
And last but not least, we spoke to Alisha Slough, a 22 year old who works in Sales and Marketing for High Peak Steels, a Steel stockholders based in Glossop, UK. She has worked for the company for 5 years, being an integral part of the team.
Tell us about yourself:
A: I am quite outgoing and will speak my mind a little too much sometimes. I work in the steel sector where I started out as a business admin apprentice and gradually worked my way up to being full time in sales. I am now on a digital marketing apprenticeship.
Why did you want to work for a Manufacturing Business such as High Peak Steels?
A: I wanted to work for High Peak Steels as at the time it was a great business opportunity for myself with room to grow but I soon learnt that this sector is male dominated. At first it was a little intimidating however now in my day to day I thrive off showing the men how well a woman can do this job too! During Covid we have helped in the ventilator challenge and providing materials for cargo to ship medical equipment up and down the country, even though this is only a very small part in the help to beat COVID I am proud to say we have helped towards it and kept it all British.
Why do you think that there is a lack of female apprentices in Manufacturing or even just Women in Manufacturing job roles?
A: Personally I think women are intimidated by the men in this industry and they don’t need to be. We need more women to overcome this stereotype which I think is slowly starting to happen. Its perceived as a ‘man’s world’ in the engineering game but it’s really any world you make it.
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