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HETA apprentice welcomes the Year of Engineering

17th January 2018

2018 sees the launch of the Government’s Year of Engineering, a year-long campaign to tackle the engineering skills gap and widen the pool of young people who join the profession. With this in mind, Humberside Engineering Training Association (HETA) and Yorkshire Water apprentice Natalie Oliver sees it as an excellent opportunity to showcase engineering careers and attract more new starters.

In 2016, Natalie made the bold decision to change profession at the age of 31 and pursue a career in engineering. As a later-in-life learner, as well as a female entering what is commonly known as a male dominated industry, she was understandably apprehensive. However, after 18 months, there is no looking back for the apprentice.

“The first year at HETA was great,” says Natalie. “They really push you and always offered extra challenges to move your experience on to the next level. I have always been made to feel very welcome at both HETA and Yorkshire Water. I’ve not found anyone who has thought any less of me or held the belief that I couldn’t do a job because I’m female.”

With an annual shortfall of 20,000 graduates in this field, the Year of Engineering aims to deliver over one million engineering experiences to young people aged 7-17. The objective is to raise the profile of engineering, challenge misconceptions and make it more accessible to anyone as a career option, regardless of gender or background.

“I think many people traditionally see engineering careers as fixing cars, building engines or working in factories,” explains Natalie. “These are perceived as jobs in which you’re constantly getting dirty and don’t get paid much. However, I don’t think everyone realises that everything is engineered in some way to become what it is, whether it’s a mobile phone, an internet application, or even the water that comes out of your taps.

“The exciting thing about engineering is discovering something new everyday. There’s a vast amount of opportunities to see and do different things throughout my working day, from learning about new equipment to finding out how live sites work from start to finish.”

Bringing engineering into the classroom and exposing more young people to the diversity of opportunities available is, for Natalie, the key to sparking their interest in the profession: “The younger you get kids to be hands on with engineering by, for example, making Lego robots or remote-controlled cars, the more real and accessible you make it for them.

“Teenagers can also be advised about their options. You don’t have to go to university to be an engineer. You can achieve an equivalent level of education through an apprenticeship, as well as qualify in paid employment and with valuable work experience. For me, HETA provides the best stepping stones for anyone considering a career in engineering."

HETA Chief Executive Iain Elliott reiterates Natalie’s belief that addressing the growing skills gap starts in the classroom: “HETA’s work with schools aims to inspire a new generation of engineers, and we are already seeing them take their place in what is a growing and vibrant sector.

“With over 265,000 skilled entrants required annually to meet the demands of engineering enterprises, the Year of Engineering presents an exciting chance to champion this dynamic industry.

Young people have the choice to enter engineering via an apprenticeship or university. Either way, the opportunities are varied, exciting and innovative, and there are plenty of sustainable careers available.”

To find out more about the engineering apprenticeship opportunities in the Year of Engineering delivered by HETA, visit