While Aimee was at school, she benefitted from some well-designed and targeted careers advice. She worked with major employers including Shell on the ‘Girls in Energy’ programme to inspire girls to get into engineering. It was a hands-on course which showed girls the opportunities available in the sector and advice about how to get a foot in the door.
Growing up in Aberdeen close to the oil and gas industry, she always knew she wanted to work in the sector – but was unsure what role she wanted to do. She originally wanted to work in the health and safety sector – however, she needed some help to understand how to get on that path.
Aimee says she was lucky that her school was switched on to the importance of good careers advice. It took part in the Career Ready programme, a UK wide charity linking employers with schools and colleges to open up the world of work to young people.
‘It was a really good course which inspired me to get into engineering,’ she explains. Aimee was able to work with a mentor from a local business who she credits with helping her work out her options. ‘It was really beneficial to work with her as she gave me the confidence to get out there and apply for my apprenticeship,’ she said.
Why an apprenticeship was right for her
When Aimee was making decisions about her career, she weighed up going to university before deciding to do an apprenticeship. ‘I chose an apprenticeship because you get hands on experience while at the same time gaining a great qualification, so it made sense for me,’ she explains. Her teachers and family fully supported her in her decision, which she puts down to the business culture in Aberdeen.
‘Apprenticeships are quite common in Aberdeen, because the oil and gas industry, so I never felt any pressure to go to university. My parents were really, really happy about my choice; it’s a really strong apprenticeship so I couldn’t ask for a better opportunity.’
National Grid combines academic training at West Cheshire College with technical and behavioural training at their own Learning Centre in Nottinghamshire.
Apprentices have the unique opportunity to gain on-site, hands-on experience.Aimee enjoys the opportunity to put her skills to use and turn theory into reality. She also has the advantage of learning from more experienced colleagues.
‘I probably shouldn’t say this,’ Aimee explains, ‘but you almost learn more from working alongside people on site than you do from in-class training because you’re putting your knowledge into practice. ‘They also they show you easier ways or different ways to do things in real life so you’re widening your knowledge all the time.’
Her apprenticeship has thrown up some surprises however – especially the move across the border from Scotland to England.
‘I never thought I’d be down here in Nottingham!’ she laughs. ‘I always thought I’d stay up in my little corner in Aberdeen, so it’s been good to branch out and see some more of the country.’
And despite being just six months into her apprenticeship, she has her sights set further than Eakring: ‘You can work across the country and in New York and across America, which I’d love to do. I think a worldwide company offers so much development and support to do what you really want.’
Aimee is full of praise for her new employer, and says they offer the perfect environment to develop her skills.
Looking ahead to the future, she sees more opportunities within National Grid. ‘Even when you finish your apprenticeship there is still room to learn and develop which different qualifications – you can do a degree if you want. I think National Grid are a company that I would want to stay with for a long time.’
Being a woman in engineering
The UK has the lowest proportion of female engineers in Europe; just 8.7% of professional engineers in the UK are women. This imbalance was something which preyed on Aimee’s mind before she started, and she is the only female apprentice on her course.
'Yes I was definitely a bit apprehensive – I didn’t know what to expect as it’s such a male-dominated industry. You don’t know how you people will view you or whether you’ll be good enough for the job. It was really difficult.’
However, Aimee was quickly put at ease in National Grid. ‘There is a lot more support out there than girls might think there is. I went in there thinking it was going to be really, really difficult and there would be no support – but I’ve been encouraged all the way; it’s been great.’
She cites the help from managers and tutors in college as key to getting on, and says she hasn’t been singled out in any way. ‘It’s not about being treated differently – there are the same opportunities for everyone here,’ she explains. She is clear that girls considering a career in the sector should not be put off, and attributes success to having the right attitude, saying, ‘The main thing is how you approach things and if you are determined to succeed.’
Aimee and the other girls at National Grid now determined to help support more women into the profession. ‘There are two or three of us girls here, and we’re trying to inspire more to join. It’s a great career, so I’d love to see more girls take it up,’ she explains. She thinks it is important that women become more visible so that girls can see the opportunities available. ‘There is definitely space for more women.’
Businesses and schools must work together
Aimee’s own experiences have convinced her that it’s really important for schools and businesses work together. ‘Businesses don’t always know what you’ve learnt at schools,’ she explains, ‘and at the same time schools don’t always know what skills you need for jobs. Working closely together is really beneficial for both – and especially for young people who need the right support to make good choices.’
She advises young people to get as much work experience as possible as this is a chance to gain skills and show employers you are passionate about the job and have the right attitude to succeed. ‘When you are looking for a job, it’s a really strong point on your CV – and is just what employers are looking for.’