Published: 10:10, 08 February 2021
| Updated: 10:14, 08 February 2021
One of the county's biggest employers is urging more women to pursue an apprenticeship in engineering.
And in a special article penned for KentOnline, Billie Sequeira, 23, a hardware technician at BAE explains how an apprenticeship put her track for success.
As a former apprentice, each year National Apprenticeship Week marks a busy and important week to me.
It’s a time dedicated to shining a light on a great way to get into work for people of all ages and backgrounds. However as a woman in STEM it’s also a time to reflect on the need to encourage more young women to consider apprenticeships and a career in engineering.
I grew up and attended school in Kent with physics and maths my favoured subjects and was surrounded by talented young women who also excelled in these areas, but not so many would follow the path of a STEM career.
I would definitely urge any young women in a similar position today to consider apprenticeships as an option because we need you. Large strides have been made in recent years with the number of women in engineering roles having doubled over the last decade. However this figure is levelling off at a point where women still only represent 10% of the national engineering workforce.
It is essential that we do not lose momentum. Some of the most remarkable engineers and technicians I work with on a daily basis are women and I’d love to see others follow in their footsteps. Apprenticeships are an ideal way to do that.
After considering the options of university or an apprenticeship, I chose to do a three-year technical apprenticeship with BAE Systems, Electronic Systems in Rochester. It was a great opportunity to gain some real hands-on experience from experts in their fields while working towards my qualifications. This doesn’t mean I chose one over the other either, but having now completed my apprenticeship I have an opportunity to potentially work towards a degree that is sponsored by my employer.
It really is a fantastic way to enter work, you earn while you learn and are introduced to world-leading technology. I spent the first year of my apprenticeship learning both practical and theoretical engineering skills, with a focus on electronics in a hands-on workshop environment. This all changes in year two when the majority of time is spent on rotation across six different departments.
At this point I was pulling knowledge from a vast network of world-class engineers and no day was the same. One day I might be working on the world’s most advanced fast-jet helmet, and the next day, studying the flight control systems you’ll find on your everyday passenger aircraft. It’s exciting to be involved in the development of new technologies, learn more about the aerospace industry, and to think that I could be working on systems used worldwide.
I don’t want anyone to miss out on the chance to experience what I have, so I would encourage anyone out there with family or friends that are young women to at least show them what is possible. My story is just one of many, and I hope many more, but that can only happen once more young women are shown what is possible.
Billie was named one of the Top 50 Women in Engineering by the Women’s Engineering Society in 2019. She followed this up by also getting recognised as one of the Top 100 Most Influential Women Leaders in Engineering UK and Europe by Inclusive Boards.
BAE Systems is holding an open panel event for anyone interested in finding out more. For details and to sign up, click here.