A 25-year-old apprentice from Llanelli wants to inspire a generation of female engineers through tackling stereotypes in the workplace.
Emily Owens, an Apprentice Engineer at telecommunications giant Openreach, says apprenticeships can be the perfect opportunity for school leavers who are unsure on their next steps.
She is eager to encourage other women, whether they’re leaving education or thinking about changing career, to consider apprenticeship opportunities in engineering.
She said: “People assume STEM is a man’s world, but it’s really not. We need to inspire the next generation to tackle this unconscious bias. If science and mathematics interest you, I’d encourage any school leaver, especially young women, to take the leap and follow a career in engineering.
“Apprenticeships are a great way for women to challenge stereotypes and excel in the STEM industries. There is a lot of support out there – all you need is the confidence to go for it.”
Emily always knew that a career in STEM was her calling but was unsure of her next steps after graduating from university. This was until she came across her Engineering Apprenticeship on the Welsh Government’s Apprenticeship Vacancy Service.
Keen for a new challenge and with no prior experience in engineering, this opportunity allowed her to learnon-the-job.
She continued “A lot of employers asked for work experience over my qualifications, and I wasn’t having any luck. That was when I found my apprenticeship and was instantly excited.
“Openreach didn’t ask for any prior knowledge, with me being paid to learn the skills of the trade while starting a career which really interested me. I applied for the role – it was a no-brainer really!”
After beginning her apprenticeship, Emily discovered that many of the skills she had gained in her biology degree were transferrable to her new role.
“Although some of the skills from my Biology degree were specific, I was able to apply and improve some other skills within my new role, like communication skills, team work and problem solving skills.
“I’m improving my communication every day when talking to customers, and problem-solving is a huge part of my role – having to work in the fibre optic network both under and overground. My role is very technical, I have to connect cables from underground or overhead networks to the customer’s property. I’m also grateful I’m able to learn from other members of the business day in, day out.
“It’s been a huge benefit being able to earn money while I have been learning and gaining my qualifications. It’s also great knowing that the qualifications I’ve gained while working at Openreach are not just recognised at this company, but within the whole industry.”
Emily continued: “I lacked confidence at the start of my apprenticeship, especially in a male-dominated industry, but I’ve had so much support from Openreach throughout my time here. I’ve had access to a mentor to guide me through the theory, and a buddy to help me through my practical work alongside my manager.”
Emily is keen to continue to develop her Engineering knowledge further than her apprenticeship.
“I will finish my Apprenticeship later this summer, but the training won’t stop there. I’ve already signed up to more courses through Openreach and my next step is do a faulting course; I’d like to be one of the best in the business”.
Economy Minister Vaughan Gething said: “The Welsh Government wants to create a fairer and more prosperous Wales, where nobody is left behind.
“That’s why we are investing a further £366m over the next three years to deliver 125,000 apprenticeships across Wales for all ages. This supports our commitment to ensure at least 90% of all 16–24-year-olds in Wales will be in education, employment, or training by 2050.
“Apprenticeships are a genius decision, for both employers seeking to future-proof their workforces while nurturing the talent that exists within Wales, and for people who want a proven route into employment that provides the opportunity to learn while earning a wage.
“We are also determined to increase the number of women working in STEM, as evidence tells us that a diverse workforce increases profitability, productivity and creativity across industry.
“I wish Emily the best of luck in her chosen career, and urge other young women to embrace the opportunities STEM subjects can offer.”
The Apprenticeship Programme in Wales is funded by the Welsh Government with support from the European Social Fund.