News & Analysis

IWD: An inspiring role model for future generations

8th March 2022
Paige West

Ellie Jukes is a first year Make UK apprentice working at Hitachi in Stone and for International Women’s Day, she shares her experiences as a young woman entering the male-dominated engineering sector.

In the UK, women make up just 29% of the manufacturing workforce, eight percent of engineering apprentices and 18% of representation on company boards. In contrast, in countries such as Iceland and New Zealand, women are highly visible in senior or managerial positions, representing 46% of board members.

Ellie is based in Stafford but originally from Cannock and after helping her dad with electrical jobs at home and deciding she wanted to develop her own properties in the future, Ellie applied for an apprenticeship in electrical engineering to help her get the skills she needs.

“Growing up, my dad did plumbing and gas jobs around the house, so after working alongside him, it just became second nature for me. I’ve always been very hands-on: a couple of years ago, I fixed my quad bike and last summer I ventured into woodwork and made an arch for our garden. It’s still standing today!

“Being my dad’s work buddy definitely inspired me. Growing up, I loved working with him on DIY projects and seeing our hard work pay off once we got something working.

“At Hitachi, we work with substations and transformers, whether these are site installations, maintenance, inspection or repairs —whatever the client needs. In my role as an apprentice, I love being able to identify an issue with something, narrow down exactly what it is and then come up with a solution.”

Fiona McGarry, Engagement Manager at Make UK, said: “This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #BreakTheBias, a message that rings very true in manufacturing. There is a perception that our sector is biased towards men and not a welcoming environment for females. We have so much evidence that points otherwise – female Make UK apprentices have gone on to establish their own companies, secure senior roles in global businesses and speak at high-profile events including the Conservative Party Conference and on BBC Breakfast. By established females in the sector supporting those coming through we will be able to make a real difference and readdress the balance.”

Ellie notes that, “Even in this day and age, there is a lot of stereotyping about women in engineering. Many girls assume the industry is closed to them and that they would be better off, say, working in cosmetics or hair and beauty, but this just isn’t the case.

“Yes, engineering is male dominated, but all the lads I work with are very welcoming and have been supportive throughout. When I applied, the company took on five new recruits — three boys and two girls, nearly even split, so I think things are starting to change.”

To celebrate International Women’s Day, Make UK hosted an afternoon tea for over 100 women. At the event, local female leaders and current apprentices shared experiences, networked, and celebrated their successes in the manufacturing industry.

To help increase the number of women entering the industry, Make UK is inviting more young women in the Midlands to apply for high-opportunity roles in manufacturing and engineering. The organisation has over 300 apprenticeship vacancies starting this September with companies including Jaguar Land Rover, Severn Trent and Rolls Royce.

“Women are underrepresented in engineering, which is why I take part in education outreach activities with teenage girls,” said Stephanie Potter, continuous improvement apprentice with Make UK, working for AE Aerospace in Birmingham. “Role models are incredibly important – I wouldn’t have considered engineering at all if it hadn’t been for my dad. I never had a female engineering role model, and I aspire to be that for other young girls, because there aren’t many people encouraging women into engineering. I want to show young people that it’s an exciting, creative career where you get to problem solve.”

For more information about Make UK apprenticeships, and to view current vacancies, visit https://makeuk.justapply.co.uk/.

Ellie concludes by saying, “My advice for any young girl is remain positive and think about what you could achieve working in the engineering industry. Don’t just focus on what could go wrong, think about what could go right and how the experience will advance your career. There’s nothing to be afraid of!”

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