From education to employment

Engineering apprentice is making history at Sheffield Forgemasters

Sheffield College engineering apprentice Lucy Nicoll is making history by being the first modern day female welder and fabricator at one of the city’s leading and iconic employers.

The 17-year-old recently started as a trainee welder and fabricator at Sheffield Forgemasters International Ltd as part of the company’s largest ever intake of 33 apprentices.

Sheffield Forgemasters is a world leader in the delivery of engineering research and development projects, forging technologies, steelmaking and ultra-large steel castings.

The company, on Brightside Lane, can trace its roots in Sheffield back more than 200 years and employs 685 staff including the new intake of apprentices.

Women were employed by the company in welding roles during the wartime years when the men were sent off to war. Lucy is the first female welder and fabricator in modern times.

Lucy’s achievements are being highlighted as part of National Apprenticeship Week, from March 4th to 8th, which celebrates the positive impact that apprenticeships have on individuals, businesses and the wider economy.

Lucy said: “It was an amazing feeling getting an apprenticeship at Sheffield Forgemasters. It’s such a historic company. I felt so happy that I could barely speak!”

She added: “I’m the only girl amongst 600-plus staff on the shop floor and I don’t mind at all. Everyone is really welcoming and so accepting. I feel very proud to work there.”

Lucy is completing an Apprenticeship in Fabrication and Welding at Level 3. Her training includes mastering sheet metalwork, plate work, fabrication and tungsten inert gas welding.

Lucy spends four days in the workplace and one day a week at The Sheffield College’s Stocksbridge training facility. She previously studied at UTC Sheffield City Centre where she completed a technical qualification in engineering and advanced manufacturing alongside GCSEs.

She added: “I enjoy the challenge of welding, and the fact that I am making something and using my maths and problem solving skills in order to do that. It takes a lifetime to perfect it. When people ask me why I’ve chosen a career in engineering, my answer is why not? University is not for me and I like the fact that I earn as I learn.”

Rick Franckeiss, Group Training Manager at Sheffield Forgemasters, said: “We are delighted that Lucy has taken on an apprenticeship in welding and fabrication. As an equal opportunities employer, we are keen to encourage more females into an industry that, across the world, has traditionally employed men.”

He added: “Our welders can go on to work on the most technically complex products imaginable, from defence related components to those used in civil nuclear power. Lucy is a great role model for future apprentices and shows that there is no reason why women cannot work in engineering roles.”

The Sheffield College is the largest provider of apprenticeships in the city and the region. During the last academic year, the College worked with approximately 1,250 employers supporting around 2,624 apprentices. 

Apprenticeships provide the opportunity for young people and adults to learn on-the-job skills, gain a qualification and get onto the first rung of the career ladder with the chance to secure permanent employment afterwards.

Angela Foulkes, Chief Executive and Principal, The Sheffield College, said: “Lucy is a fantastic role model for young women who want to go further and pursue their career dreams. Already, Lucy has shown that she has great skills in welding and fabricating and that she is more than ready for the world of work.”

She added: “I am so proud to be able to count such a positive, aspirational and inspirational young woman as a Sheffield College apprentice. I wish Lucy every success on her journey.”

The College provides free advice to apprenticeship applicants, as well as employers who want to find out about the benefits and practical steps involved in recruiting an apprentice.

Related Articles