WES Blog March 2016 - National Apprenticeship Week

Just a typical week for a WES member…

This is my first attempt at ‘blogging’ so please bear with me. I am writing this during National Apprentice Week 2016 and I myself am a Project Management Apprentice working for a large engineering organisation, BAE Systems. Therefore, statistically, I am a female working within engineering and I am a keen advocate for promoting Women in Engineering.

So, the theme for National Apprenticeship Week 2016 is “An Apprenticeship Can Take You Anywhere”. When I first began my higher apprenticeship in 2012 it is highly likely that I would have disregarded this statement, wondering where else I could possibly go other than my work site in Lancashire? This is because, at the time, I didn’t realise the opportunities available to me. Now, in 2016 I can tell you whole heartedly an apprenticeship truly can take YOU anywhere!

I am sat writing this blog currently working on base at RAF Coningsby. Who knew an apprentice, a female Project Management apprentice, could work on a RAF base working alongside the Royal Air Force on a daily basis? I certainly didn’t! But it has proven to be an invaluable experience for me working alongside our main customer in a customer environment. Additionally at the start of 2016 I was fortunate enough to be invited to meet The Prime Minister, David Cameron, at 10 Downing Street to celebrate apprenticeships. Again this is something I could never dream of happening to me and did not realise being an apprentice would allow me this opportunity, taking me not only anywhere, but 10 Downing Street!Jo meeting David Cameron on National Apprenticeships Week

Focussing on this week alone, as an apprentice and a member of the Women’s Engineering Society, what have I been up to? My week started off with some on the job training in the North West, followed by a day at college on Tuesday where I am currently studying for my Bachelor’s degree in Project Management. On Wednesday morning I then travelled down to RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire to carry out my normal every day job. This week I have had various meetings with the Royal Air Force, as well as Ministry of Defence personnel. I love attending customer meetings and I think it is very important to get to know your customers and truly understand their expectations. At BAE Systems one of our products is the Eurofighter Typhoon and this week the Typhoons have been particularly noisy, flying multiple times a day from RAF Coningsby. My office is just opposite the runway so I can sit at my desk watching them take off throughout the day. This is really exciting to witness but can be distracting at times due to how loud they are.

I am currently working on my Bachelor’s dissertation and this week I had some time out to have a chat with a leading consultant for Diversity and Inclusion. This is a topic I feel very strongly about and I am keen to increase the number of females within the engineering sector, hence studying the topic for my dissertation. But what is the underlying cause of why we have so few females in engineering and STEM as a whole? Are women not interested in STEM? Do they not feel welcome in STEM? Are our brains developed differently? Do our parents and teachers push us into different career sectors? All of these questions will feature in my research and I am actively working with organisations such as WES, Your Life and the WISE Campaign to understand what WE can ALL do to help combat this issue. Last week was also International Women’s Day and the theme was Pledge for Parity. It upsets me to hear that globally we do not believe we will achieve gender parity until 2133! That’s another 117 years! This will impact not just me and you, but our children, our children’s children and even their children! What are YOU going to do to put gender on your agenda?

I encourage you all to help promote the engineering sector and especially encourage more young girls into engineering. I would love to hear from you and welcome your thoughts on all of the above.Jo Sharples

Thanks for taking the time to read this blog,

Joanne Sharples