As the pressure mounts to bring more females into the engineering sector, one young woman from the North East is envisaging a bright future in the field.
Ellie Dunnington, from Hartlepool, recently secured an apprenticeship with Teesside-based engineering company Wilton Engineering Services, where she is due to start later this month.
Just two days after she learned her application had been successful, the 18-year-old - who is on a four-year course studying welding and fabrication - then competed in the regional heats for WorldSkills UK Engineering Construction Metalwork at Hartlepool Further College of Education.
“I only got told earlier this week,” she said.
“I feel so lucky to secure an apprenticeship with Wilton Engineering Services.
“It depends what route I go down but I could be a welder or plater - we’re yet to find out.
“I would rather do the welding. However, I enjoy plating. I’ll get put with a mentor who will train me and advise me. I will help them in their job while learning skills.”
Dunnington was nominated to compete in the Construction Metalwork category of the WorldSkills UK - one of 13 engineering competitions run by Semta, which is responsible for building engineering skills for the future.
She was competing against six boys, with the task of constructing and fabricating the base of a crane.
In July, she will find out whether she is going through to the national final to be held at the Skills Show in Birmingham. A medal there would then see her selected for the UK squad to compete in the World Skills finals in Abu Dhabi in 2017.
The Skills Show is the nation’s largest skills and careers event, aimed at helping shape the future of a new generation.
Attracting over 75,000 visitors, it provides hands-on experiences that inspire young people to explore further education, skills and apprenticeships.
The event is now part of Find a Future, an organisation which brings together the nation’s flagship skills and careers experiences.
“I would be very proud if I was able to win a place at The Skills Show,” Dunnington said.
“It is quite a rare thing for a girl to do so in the engineering competitions.
“I was first attracted to engineering by the whole hands-on side of things. I like the way you can construct something, fabricate it and see everything come together rather than just looking and wondering.
“My ultimate ambition is to qualify as a welder or plater and I would like to go offshore to different countries.”
Joanne Iceton, Semta’s head of communications and public affairs said: “It has been fantastic to see so many talented youngsters competing using skills which are vital to the future of the UK’s advanced manufacturing and engineering sector.
“There has been a welcome increase in the number of girls making it to the regional finals but there is still much to do.
“Women make up 50% of the workforce but only 21% of the AME workforce is female - and even fewer of them are technicians.
“Ellie has done well to get this far and it would be great to see her in the national final and the international squad - but most importantly she has secured an apprenticeship and a career and is a role model for other girls to follow.”
The role of women in engineering and manufacturing has increasingly come under the spotlight in recent months, as the Journal presses ahead with its Proud to Back Apprenticeships campaign.
Dunnigton added: “I would definitely advise other girls to do it as it is a great experience and you are thought no differently to the boys and it is really good fun.”