Find out more about Emma Goulding, the winner of 2015' IET Mary George Prize for Apprentices.
Emma recently completed her technical apprenticeship at Siemens Aeroderivative Gas Turbines (AGT) after spending three years rotating around the business gaining experience in everything from technical support and documentation through to equipment health monitoring and sales.
Having now assumed a full-time role within the controls department, her current focus is on providing technical support to customers.
“I’m doing what I love,” she says. “This is the most technical department we have and I get a lot of satisfaction from discovering and solving issues as they arise.”
The freedom of homeschooling
From a young age Emma had been interested in the way things worked. Homeschooled during her GCSEs, she was not restricted to the UK curriculum and so was able to freely learn more about the subjects that interested her most.
One of her teachers taught her that with hard work and commitment she could work in any field or profession, so, when finding a passion for science and physics she pursued these subjects at A level, knowing that she wanted to go into a career in engineering. Unsure about heading off to university, she researched her options, changing her opinion on apprenticeships along the way.
Apprenticeship or university?
“I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go to university as I wasn’t guaranteed a job at the end. I wanted to look for something else, where I could still learn but apply the knowledge I already had. Before I became an apprentice my view was that they were for school leavers and not applicable to me. That view has completely changed – I discovered there’s a huge variety of people that undertake apprenticeships,” she explains.
Emma enjoyed the technical challenge of the apprenticeship and being able to apply the knowledge she’s learned in a working environment. In her short time at the company she’s already had many great opportunities, but one of her biggest challenges to date has to be project managing an event in Africa.
Opportunities available to apprentices
“During my sales placement I was responsible for project managing a customer training event in Luanda, Angola,” she says. “This week-long event involved both engineers and managers providing Siemens product training to 50 of our customers. Even though I work in engineering, project management is an important part of what we do. I knew I needed more experience in this environment and this was the perfect opportunity. It was a massive challenge, but so far I believe I’m the first and only apprentice to have had that opportunity, so I feel quite privileged,” she says.
Engineering - not just a job for the boys!
Outside of engineering technical support, Emma is also an active volunteer, working as a STEM ambassador. Alongside visits to local schools and colleges she works closely with other female engineers at Siemens to promote women in engineering as she wants to encourage more girls to choose a similar pathway to her own.
“I think it’s disappointing that the amount of women in engineering is so low at the minute and that needs to change. I remember a lot of people frowning upon the idea that I was homeschooled and I think that’s how a lot of girls look upon engineering, asking why would you do that? It doesn’t have to be a masculine role – I’m a woman in engineering and I wear purple nail varnish to work,” she laughs. “I started volunteering because I wanted to try to change girls' perceptions on what engineering is as we’re missing a lot of great talent simply because girls think its an industry just for men."
Volunteering as a STEM ambassador
“I registered as a STEM ambassador in order to encourage young people to look into STEM careers, just as one of my teachers did for me,” she continues. “I’ve attended career fairs and interview days, where I bring information about my job and the industry I work in. Whilst the boys are always easier, I try to specifically encourage the girls and challenge them on why they believe engineering is a masculine career.
“I want to use my experience to show them what it’s really like. I was concerned when I started my apprenticeship that I might be treated differently because I was a woman, but I’ve never had an issue with being the only female in my team. I’ve had the opportunity to travel – to Germany, Africa. I want to show what women in engineering are capable of and make it a more acceptable career choice for girls to consider,” she adds.
As the winner of the 2015 IET Mary George Prize for Apprentices, Emma is keen to continue her work in this field, doing what she can to promote engineering careers to schoolgirls, but to also highlight what women can bring to this classically ‘male’ environment.
“Women can bring something different to the team, we can provide a different perspective or a different way of thinking,” she notes. “I think we can often change the dynamics of a team in a good way!”