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Friday, 31 October 2014

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Cumbrian training firm's biggest ever female recruitment

Here come the girls... for GEN II’s new intake of apprentices that is, which has seen the biggest female recruitment in its 10-year history.

A massive 21 per cent of this year’s new recruits are young women who have begun engineering-related apprenticeships with the training provider.

The group of 37 has smashed all records and will undertake scientific, electrical, fabrication and nuclear worker apprenticeships.

The news is a positive step forward in GEN II’s drive to encourage more females into the industry and is associated partly with the higher number of females passing this year’s aptitude tests.

GEN II, based at Lillyhall’s Energus facility, also claims its first female fabricator. But HAYLEY SLOAN, 18, of Ashfield, Workington, is not your average fabricator. She started her career working for letting agency Belvoir but soon realised a typical desk job was not for her.

“I applied to GEN II three times before I was finally successful,” Hayley said. “It’s such a competitive programme to get on because the skills you learn here are like nowhere else in the region and everyone wants to have these skills.

“At school I was always into design and loved anything to do with design that was hands-on, so I knew for a while fabrication was where I wanted to be.

“Being the first female fabricator here feels great, but it doesn’t make me feel any different from any other of the apprentices. Being the only girl in a group of boys doesn’t faze me – they treat me equally, and so do the tutors.

“I’m loving every minute of it and I’ve only just started my apprenticeship. I can’t wait to go on to do more training and I would love to eventually undertake an engineering design course. But the main attraction for me is knowing that once I am fully trained I will have a good chance of landing a secure job with a firm like Sellafield.”

With the option of university becoming more expensive, the “earn while you learn” aspect of a GEN II apprenticeship is proving to be one of the main attractions for this new set of engineering hopefuls.

“We have good careers waiting for us when we finish our training here,” said higher apprentice SARAH BELL, 18. “We won’t leave GEN II with thousands of pounds worth of debt.

“It’s already becoming a brilliant experience for us here – you are not at school any more and it feels like it when you’re treated like an adult and a professional.”

Fellow higher apprentice CHELSEA GLAISTER, 20, said: “The staff here are brilliant. They have already shown themselves to be very supportive and really helpful – they want us to do well regardless of whether we are male or female. We are just expected to get on with things – everyone is, which is nice because as a new apprentice you don’t want to be treated different from anyone else.”

Electical apprentice LAUREN BOYD, 16, maintains that the practical aspect of an apprenticeship is another bonus to the programme. She said she wanted to do something other than a desk-based job as a career and was keen to pursue a profession not usually associated with women.

“Everything about apprenticeships is hands-on and practical,” she said. “So far there hasn’t been one day the same which keeps us all interested and wanting to learn more.

“You’re constantly making and designing things and these aren’t projects we are used to in school – these involve the likes of re-wiring things and learning how to tidy and work with cables.”

For GEN II’s female contingent, starting an apprenticeship with the prospect of being one of only a handful of women seemed pretty daunting.

“When I found out I had got through all the tests and would be starting an apprenticeship, I suddenly realised I could be the only girl there or one of only a few,” RHIANN SULLIVAN, 17, systems control apprentice, said.

“But when I started I saw loads of other girls – in fact they just kept appearing – I really didn’t expect it. It was a shock to realise that instead of being one of a few, I was one of many.”

Fellow systems apprentice LAURA HARRINGTON, 16, said: “It was comforting to know you wouldn’t be the odd one out at GEN II and in a funny way we all tend to look out for each other, especially when you’re doing the same apprenticeship with another girl.

“But, as well, we’ve grown close to the boys we are in the same team as, and all help each other through projects. It’s a good environment to be training in.”

For some of the apprentices, the opportunity to train with GEN II was taken after they had left previous careers or training routes.

One apprentice left the military to pursue training with GEN II as a result of its outstanding reputation for training geared towards the engineering industry.

“A lot of my friends have trained with GEN II and told me all about it,” CASEY MARSH, nuclear worker apprentice, 18, said. “They passed on their experiences here and I think that played a major part in me applying.

“They told me the truth and had been there and done it themselves. A lot of the other apprentices here also applied after their family or friends had been through the process.”

NATALIE SCOTT, 18, a mechanical apprentice, said: “I would love to work as a fitter somewhere abroad in the future, but for now my aspirations would be to work at the Ford rally headquarters M-Sport.

“It doesn’t put me off being a female and aiming to work in the engineering industry – if anything it’s made me work harder for it.

“It made me nervous at first when I started but that soon went and I just got on with the job. I would advise other girls not to be intimidated either – you are not treated any different from the boys.

“The skills we will learn here will allow us to go all over the world.”

Electrical apprentice, AYSHA BASSETT, 18, said: “The best part of the training so far has been learning about electronics and wiring but with the skills I gain here I want to set up my own business one day in domestic electrical engineering.

“It would be good to develop my skills at Sellafield though before I venture into working for myself. It is one of the top places around here for long-term career opportunities.”

SOPHIE TAYLOR, 17, a nuclear worker apprentice, said she couldn’t be happier at GEN II and is proud to be part of this year’s largest female intake.

She said: “All my friends think it’s great that I’m doing an apprenticeship and I think the message is finally getting out that they are not just for boys any more.

“Girls are upping their own profile when it comes to apprenticeships and I think word of mouth helps – that must explain this year’s highest number of girls.

“There are no limitations now.”

Mike Smith, managing director of GEN II, said: “Earlier this month we were delighted to welcome almost 180 apprentices to GEN II.

“Local employer demand for high quality apprentices is encouraging this year, given the continuing difficulties caused by a recovering economy.

“This intake is particularly significant as it marks our highest ever female intake of 21 per cent, compared to a national average of around three per cent.

“A total of 30 per cent of new learners undertaking higher education programmes this year are also female. We continue to work hard at GEN II to promote equality for all of our training programmes and we are delighted that the promotional campaigns have been so successful.

“This success is not only due to GEN II’s efforts to promote the role of women, but also the enlightened attitude of our partners and the employers that we work with towards the value of employing women within their workforce.”

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