According to the Skills Commission, it’s estimated that nearly 200,000 engineers will be needed annually in the UK between now and 2024 to meet demand. Yet women currently represent only 12 per cent of the engineering workforce.
Here at the Growth Company, we support women from all walks of life to help them build careers in STEM industries – one of the ways we do this is by offering engineering and manufacturing apprenticeships.
Hannah Winterbottom took on a manufacturing apprenticeship at Spectrum Plastics in Stockport. She went on to say: “I chose to do this apprenticeship because I wanted to take on new challenges and expand my knowledge and skillset in areas that are new to me. I also wanted to show that females can succeed in a manufacturing environment.”
During the course of her apprenticeship, Hannah gained a wealth of practical experience and knowledge. She said: “I’ve learnt how to confidently run a variety of machines on a daily basis, including encapsulation, screen printing and wirobinding. I can also set the blades to make sure the edges of the job that I'm running match the job spec, and I know how to use the CRM system to double check the specs and fill out job information. I’ve also learned a lot about health and safety, manual handling, COSHH data and different legislation within the workplace.”
It’s not just Hannah who has benefitted from her apprenticeship – Spectrum Plastic’s director, Kath Doran, is also very glad that she recruited Hannah. The company has an ageing workforce, with a number of employees considering retirement – something which they needed to plan for. Kath felt that young blood could bring some vibrancy and fresh ideas to the organisation.
Discussing the importance of hiring young talent and bridging skills gaps, Kath said: “Most young people are naturally IT savvy, which in itself brings fresh knowledge and new skills to our workforce. Having only introduced computers onto the shop floor in the last couple of years, our younger generation are able to train those existing members of staff that are not so clued up. Meanwhile, the seasoned staff are able to pass on their skills of the industry and machine operation. I feel this helps make both parties feel on a more even level as they are exchanging skills.”
Watching Hannah flourish in the workplace has been a fulfilling experience for Kath. She said: “Hannah has developed her sense of responsibility - it has been an interesting and rewarding journey seeing her grow in confidence. Even through the more difficult times, we saw something in Hannah that we felt was worth our time and effort. When she doubted herself we would tell her that we believed in her ability and that she had what it took to succeed.”
Hannah is grateful for all the support she received during her apprenticeship. Speaking of her experience at Spectrum Plastics, she said: “Throughout the year, everyone has been really supportive to help me achieve my apprenticeship. My colleagues were patient with me if I made a mistake and helped me learn from it and grow. They took the time to teach me from the very beginning and always offered a helping hand. Also being allowed Wednesday afternoons off to travel to college to complete my Maths Level 1 was a huge help, which I am grateful for.”
So what are Hannah’s ambitions for the future? “Now that I have finished my apprenticeship I will continue to learn and develop my skills. I would like to eventually work my way up to a manager or supervisor role. There are many more machines for me to learn and hopefully over time I will be able to confidently operate more of them”, she said.
It’s great to see young women like Hannah thriving in the manufacturing sector and making the workforce more diverse. Women have so many skills to offer the STEM industries, and Hannah is a shining example of someone who is growing and succeeding in a male-dominated sector.
If you’d like to find out how you can boost skills in your business with apprenticeships or training programmes, take a look at our latest campaign.
Alternativelty, if you or someone you know is interested in a manufacturing apprenticeship, call our Education and Skills team on 0161 233 2656.