The Times List of the Top 50 Employers for Women has been published for 2015 and we're delighted to see our Event Partner BAE Systems on the list.
This accolade is due to the company's contribution, both through internal processes and external activities to promote gender equality, diversity and inclusion and the creation of opportunities for women in a wider context.
The women who feature on the BAE Systems Advert within the Times supplement are four talented engineers from the company. They are just a few of the many great female role models within BAE Systems and we hope you find inspiration from the profiles below.
Micha Knight, Quality Control Inspector
21-year-old Micha Knight was the first female apprentice welder to join BAE Systems in more than three decades when she started her Submarine Solutions apprenticeship in 2011. Since then, she has progressed to the role of Quality Control Inspector using the training she has received at the Company.
Micha took an engineering course at college where she quickly discovered she had a natural ability for welding, which inspired her to apply as a welding apprentice after previously considering a role as an electrician apprentice. She brought samples of her work, both practical and written, to her interview and was promptly accepted onto the apprenticeship scheme. After six weeks in the ‘Pipe Shop’ she went into the Joe Murphy Welding Centre to train as a structural welder – and her test pieces impressed all who saw them. She completed her apprenticeship with an NCQ level three in fabrication, allowing her to become a fully qualified welder at the Company.
Micha’s friends were surprised at the career she decided to embark upon, particularly as welding is still considered as a very male occupation. “I like going out, and that means that I get quite dressed up, with the eyelashes and extensions and they find it a bit weird that I come in here and dress down into boots and overalls!” She certainly hopes others will follow in her footsteps. “Welding is stereotypically a man’s job, but if people realise girls can do it as well, or even better, why wouldn’t they want to take it up?”“I am now a Quality Control Inspector overseeing the welding of others. My apprenticeship was definitely the right fit for me, and the huge range of opportunities available at BAE Systems is something I would suggest other young people look into.”
Charlotte Tingley BAE Systems
Charlotte started her career with BAE Systems in 2006, joining the business as an Advanced Technical Apprentice after finishing her GCSEs. Originally from the Isle of Sheppey in Kent, Charlotte is currently based at BAE Systems’ Electronic Systems facility in Rochester.
In her nine years with the company Charlotte has completed an apprenticeship and worked on several exciting projects including the Harrier Jump Jet helmet, Eurofighter Typhoon Helmet and her most recent move to Active Inceptor Systems. During her time on the scheme she was a finalist for the BAE Systems Apprentice of the Year 2009 and won the Community Achievement prize. In 2012 following a nomination from one of her project managers Charlotte was nominated for the prestigious IET Young Woman Engineer of the Year award and was the runner up winning the Women’s Engineering Society Prize.
Charlotte has recently moved into Quality Assurance working in the Joint Strike Fighter Active Inceptor Systems intergrated project team. “I love my work, knowing I’m a part of a team working on such advanced technology in its field is extremely rewarding,” Charlotte comments.
Charlotte was inspired to pursue her career by her father – who works in electrical installation – after he involved her in ‘Take your Son or Daughter to Work Day’, a global initiative to get children excited about work by introducing them to working environments. There was an instant appeal for Charlotte:
“I was 14 and hadn’t really been exposed to the world of engineering but after a day of challenging hands-on work and problem solving I just knew I wanted to have a career in the same field.
“I was the first female apprentice to be taken on in my department at Rochester in 10 years, but I feel that the situation has really changed since I joined. There isn’t such a stigma anymore about being a woman in engineering, which is really positive.”
Since joining the company Charlotte has excelled quickly, being promoted to ‘Leading Hand’, a supervisory role, within just 3 months of being a Test Technician - the youngest ever to secure this role at Rochester. She is working towards increasing her understanding of the other products manufactured at the site and continuing her studies, with the aim of becoming part of the management team at the site in the next couple of years and nurturing other apprentices.
Jenny Westworth – Senior Manufacturing Engineer, BAE Systems
25 year-old Jenny Westworth from Morecambe, Lancashire, has been with BAE Systems since 2007 - joining as an aeronautical engineering apprentice and working her way up to her current role as a Senior Manufacturing Engineer at the Military Air and Information business.
Jenny’s interest in engineering saw her focus her GCSE’s and A-Levels towards STEM subjects wherever possible. Starting a degree at university seemed like the next logical step, but she began to realise that she had always enjoyed learning through hands-on activities rather than the book-led studies that characterised much of her education.
Her father advised her to investigate apprenticeships and, though apprehensive at first, she realised that the right programme could give her the hands-on, on-the-job learning she sought after, without compromising on her ambitions.
Jenny chose BAE Systems because it afforded her the opportunity to try different placements across the business to build her experience, before deciding on what she would like to do. She completed eight placements over three and a half years, helping her to make an informed decision based on what she had enjoyed and where her strengths lay.
She has also been able to complete various qualifications during her time with Company, completing a BTEC HND Level 5 in Aerospace Engineering for example, and is currently working towards a BEng (Hons) in Manufacturing Systems. Jenny has also accumulated a number of highly prestigious accolades during her career, becoming the National Apprenticeship Service’s ‘UK Apprentice Champion of the Year’ in 2012, as well achieving the ‘Rising Star’ award from the Royal Academy of Engineering that same year.
She recently moved into a role with a newly formed department entitled the ‘New Product and Process Development Centre’ – which sees her examine, develop and implement the manufacture of components for military aircraft that have produced using additive layer manufacture (a revolutionary approach to aircraft construction). Previously, she had worked on the final assembly line for the Typhoon fighter jet, where she learned first-hand the complexities of developing one of the most advanced aircraft in the world.
In addition to her engineering role, Jenny is also a STEM ambassador for BAE Systems, working with the Company to meet and inspire a future generation of engineers, particularly women.
Offering her biggest piece of advice to new starters, she commented: “I implore anyone starting out as an apprentice to get very good at asking questions. You’ll be working alongside people who have years of experience, tapping into that knowledge will help you immeasurably and mark you out as someone who’s keen to learn and grow.”
Francesca McKenna, Apprentice of the Year
21 year old Francesca McKenna from Lancashire has been awarded the prestigious BAE Systems apprentice of the year award 2015 for her work on the Astute class nuclear submarine.
Francesca started at the Company in 2011 and was originally on a three year apprenticeship, but has since extended it to five years allowing her to work towards a full degree as a risk engineer.
Francesca hadn’t always wanted to work in an engineering environment, she studied a range of different subjects in the first year of her A-Levels, before deciding to focus on Maths, Biology and Chemistry for her final year.
She joined BAE Systems straight after 6th form, following in her brothers footsteps who joined the apprenticeship a few years ago. Her father has also worked at the same site for many years, driving Francesca to follow the same route.
Speaking on her decision not to go to university Francesca said “I feel like in this line of work, you get the same opportunities by doing an apprenticeship as you do by going to university. I will still get my full qualification, but I also get first hand physical experience and won’t have student debt.”
Self-management, teamwork and communication are the main things Francesca has learned through her apprenticeship where she liaises with different stakeholders across the business to ensure projects are completed on time and on budget.
Since winning her award Francesca has been overwhelmed by the support from colleagues from all over the business. Her line manager, who put her up for the award, said that her constant high performance and speed of learning were just some of the reasons why she deserved the recognition.
To inspire the next generation of engineers, Francesca takes part in STEM activities with local youth groups and also attended The Big Bang Fair (11-14 March).
Commenting on her apprenticeship she said “They offer so many opportunities and are a great alternative to university, I didn’t particularly know what I wanted to do when I finished school at 18, but this apprenticeship has really focussed me in progressing in such a great career!”
Rachael Carr – Systems Engineer
Twenty six year-old Rachael Carr is a Systems Engineer at BAE Systems. She left school at 16 to go to college for two years to study for a BTEC National Diploma in Electrical and Electronic Engineering. Rachael subsequently joined BAE Systems in 2006 as one of 75 apprentices in Preston, for a three and a half year technical apprenticeship, during which she also earned a BEng (honorary) degree in Mechatronics.
Rachael was clear in her choice of vocational qualifications: “Going into employment from an apprenticeship gives you an advantage over those coming in from full-time education because you know the business and have hands-on experience,” Rachael explains, before adding: “You can be the smartest person in the world but if you don’t have any hands-on skills you are going to struggle in a manufacturing environment.
”Apprentices also get to work closely with senior members of staff and, as Rachael states, “You can’t put a price on the experience you gain from the people that you work with. You can be alongside someone who has been in the company for 35 years but what you learn from them can’t be found in a textbook.”The inaugural year of the apprenticeship scheme saw her at BAE Systems Training Centre where apprentices learned basic skills such as fitting (filling and drilling), electrical work and carbon fibre work. “You need an appreciation of each of these skills before you can specialise in one of them,” explains Rachael. Apprentices are also given an understanding of the company at this time.
“The first couple of weeks here were pretty difficult, simply because I wasn’t used to having a job – we were all working and there was a lot to pick up on. Once I’d settled in though I felt the excitement of the job and began to enjoy it,” says Rachael. In a fledgling career already full of accolades, Rachael was named BAE Systems UK Apprentice of the Year in her final year as an apprentice, competed for Team UK in the World Skills International Competition held in London in 2011, and took part in the FLAVIIR project, a prestigious 5 year research programme looking at technologies for future unmanned air vehicles (UAV).A testament to her passion for STEM-related activities, Rachael continues to take part in initiatives outside of her core role in the business.
She currently serves as an Education Ambassador for BAE Systems, mentors new apprentices joining the Company, and is currently the Performance Coach for the latest recruits participating in the 43rd World Skills competition in August. “One of my roles is to encourage more young people to study the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects, so I go into local schools to talk to Years 7 to 10. I also explain about how apprenticeships work and talk to them about my experiences at BAE Systems. I really want them to get a feeling for what is involved and how it could benefit them.”
For more information on BAE Systems apprenticeships and placement schemes click here.
If you would like to see the full Times supplement with the list of the Top 50 Employers for Women for 2015 please click here.