Blazing a trail in NI construction sector
Businesses from across NI will gather this week at the Skills NI Exhibition to showcase the range of employment opportunities available — and they are encouraging young women to consider an apprenticeship.
We take a look at the example set by three female apprentices in engineering and construction:
Joanna Barclay joined NIE Networks as an apprentice in 2010. But afterwards, her career took a new direction when NIE Networks offered her a place on the Apprentice to Graduate programme.
The programme sponsors successful apprentices to undertake an electrical engineering degree at Queen's University.
Joanna was the first apprentice to avail of the programme and is now a full-time electrical engineering graduate.
Joanna said: "From a very young age I have always had a keen interest in electricity. I think this interest may have come from my father who worked as a cable jointer on the underground network. I've always wanted to pursue a career in the electricity industry and joined NIE Networks as an overhead lines apprentice in 2010.
"After completing my apprenticeship my career path took a new direction when I joined the NIE Networks' Apprentice to Graduate programme. I'm now a graduate engineer as part of NIE Networks' line and stations team in Ballymena. I would highly recommend a career in engineering. It opens up a lot of opportunities, such as working in other countries.
"There's lots of variety and if you enjoy science and maths it's the perfect job field. Engineering is traditionally seen as an all-male environment but there are more and more women working in this field."
Rachel Moffitt joined the NI Water Apprenticeship Programme in January 2009 after studying archaeology at Queen's University.
However, due to the recession in 2008, work had dried up and Rachel found herself looking for a new job, one that allowed her to continue to work outdoors.
She started as the only female apprentice in wastewater operations in Omagh with NI Water.
Within a year, she was responsible for a number of wastewater treatment works and has gone on to forge a successful career with the company.
The apprentice scheme includes modules such as analytical design, water science and customer services for the water industry.
Rachel said: "I know some young women might find it intimidating or uncomfortable working with men, but I honestly think it has made me a stronger, more confident person, as you have to put yourself out there and constantly prove your ability.
"I hope to continue to progress within NI Water as I increase my knowledge and understanding of the different functions.
"Being a woman in this business has never held me back and I see no reason why there shouldn't be more of us, especially within operations.
"When I joined as an apprentice, there weren't any other young women in a role specific to mine, but now it's normal."
Rachel Maguire is an apprentice with HP Hire in Enniskillen and is currently studying NVQ Level 3 in light vehicle repair at South West College.
Females are generally under-represented within the construction industry and female construction apprentices are not very common.
But Rachel has taken her apprenticeship in her stride and is eager to get on with the job in hand and learn.
Rachel said: "I am enjoying my apprenticeship.
"Being able to fine tune my mechanical skills on site has helped me to learn more about the job, gain valuable work experience and helped me to develop personally.
"The work is interesting and I enjoy working with the tools and as part of the team while gaining my qualifications at the same time.
"HP Hire have given me a great opportunity to learn my trade on site, dealing with all aspects of the job to help my career development."