To celebrate Women in Engineering Day on Saturday 23rd June, we caught up with Engineering Apprentice, Lilly James, to ask her about her job and course, and to hear her thoughts about being a woman in the industry.

“Hi, I’m Lily and I have been an engineering apprentice for almost a year. I work at Torr Scientific, a local engineering company, as a scientific glassblower, which is quite unusual, but really cool.

I’ve always enjoyed making arts and crafts, and the role as a glassblower really appealed to me, so I thought I would apply. Being able to learn and work in an industry that I genuinely enjoy is immensely satisfying and the fact that I can learn practical skills in metalwork, which will be useful at work and in everyday life, and get paid, is great.

I love engineering, but I was a little worried at first when I discovered I was the only woman in the class at college. However, I have been treated with nothing but respect and as an equal, and made to feel comfortable and accepted.

I do understand though that for some women, especially in the past, it has been a long hard road to be accepted and to be on equal footing. Even now, there may be women in the industry who have their opinions overlooked by customers, and even colleagues, purely because of their gender, and that’s not acceptable.

I have enjoyed the past year at work and college. I had never done any metalwork before, so everything at college was brand new to me. A typical day at college is usually in the workshop doing practical tasks on the machines, whether that is turning, milling, welding or fabricating various tools to specification of engineers’ drawings.

At work I’ve learnt a lot in glassblowing. Our current main output is parts for Geiger counters, as well as various other small jobs I’ve been learning about. Recently, I have taken on more responsibility and been able to teach one of the new trainees some of the skills I have learnt over the past year.

My plans for the future are to stay with my current employer, learn more skills, and progress to the point where I am a competent and experienced glassblower.

I think that Women in Engineering Day is a great and important way to draw attention to the lack of women in the industry. I hope that this day is able to inspire young girls to want to work in the industry. I also hope that it helps us to reach a point where women in engineering becomes normal and that women are treated the same as men; being judged on the quality of their work without gender bias.”

National Women in Engineering Day was launched for the first time in the UK on 23rd June 2014 and aims to raise awareness and encourage more women to get into the sector.

In 2017, a survey revealed that only 11% of the engineering workforce in the UK was female (wisecampaign.org.uk). Government statistics also show that the UK is lagging behind other European countries such as Latvia, Bulgaria and Cyprus, who have almost 30% of women in engineering roles (Gov.uk).

Sussex Coast College Hastings offers a number of full-time, part-time, and apprenticeship engineering courses, including degree level, throughout the year and is still taking applications for the next academic year starting in September 2018.

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