Grimsby girl power! Women in career-spanning engineering roles are celebrated

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 25 Jun 2018

GRIMSBY can proudly claim one of the Top 50 Women in Engineering.

Emma Browning featured in the Sunday Telegraph’s special feature to mark International Women in Engineering Day, with a raft of regional recognition also emerging to help inspire others. 

The 38-year-old is in a second career, having initially worked for HMRC in her home town, making her ideal for this year's focus on returning stars or transfers from other sectors.

She’s now helping deliver green energy from offshore wind – thought not part of the cluster that has transformed Grimsby’s economic prospects. She is working from the London office of Scottish Power Renewables.

In the piece, which formed a case study-packed celebration of women in industry, she said: “As an environment manager working with Scottish Power Renewables’ new £2.5 billion offshore wind farm, I lead a team on one of the UK’s biggest and most exciting engineering projects. But my route into the sector has hardly been traditional. 

“I started out as a personal assistant in a VAT office. By the time I left, I had progressed to the post of specialist criminal investigator for HM Customs and Excise. 

"After more than a decade in my first career I decided to pursue my schoolgirl ambition of becoming a teacher and took a four-month sabbatical to work in Kenya, where I taught English.”

Read more: Offshore wind environment manager Emma inspires with Top 50 Women in Engineering title

Education links didn’t end there. On her return to the UK she went back into full-time education, 18 years after starting at Whitgift School, receiving a first class honours degree in physical geography from University of Sheffield in 2011. 

“Since graduating I have developed a second career in environmental management. In my previous role with SP Energy Networks, I was responsible for the environmental project management, co-ordination and delivery of a renewable energy scheme, which is about as far away from VAT fraud as it is possible to get."

Underlining how she "constantly updates her skills," she added: "Inspiring others to believe in themselves is so important, everyone’s opportunities can be limitless with the right mindset, support, encouragement and dedication. I am very proud to be one of the selected Top 50 Women in Engineering 2018.”

First steps celebrated

Katie Cherrell and Hollie Edwards, who will join Total Lindsey Oil Refinery in the summer, and right, Courtney Kiss, pictured at The Academy Grimsby's prom night at Laceby Manor Golf Club last year.

About to make their introductions to industry are first year apprentices Hollie Edwards, Katie Cherrell and Courtney Kiss. The Humberside Engineering and Training Association (HETA) trio have already successfully secured placements at South Bank employers Total Lindsey Oil Refinery and Technical Absorbents. Their tutors say they are demonstrating how they are ‘raising the bar’ in pursuit of more diversity in engineering.

“Gender should no longer be a factor in deciding a career path,” said Hollie. “If you have the capability and right mentality to pursue a career in engineering, then you should do it. Some prejudice does still exist, but we have actually all thrived on this. We hope to help make it a more widely accepted career option for women.”

With an estimated annual shortfall of 20,000 engineering graduates, encouraging more diversity in the industry is the key to overcoming this statistic. However, the UK is still behind its European counterparts in recruiting women into the sector.

Read more: 2 Sisters launches national apprenticeship scheme with Heta

This is something that Katie hopes events such as the international day will overcome: “It is important to promote the women who are building successful careers in the field of engineering,” she said. “The more they see their peers doing these kind of roles, the more encouraged they will feel to give it a go for themselves.

“When I attended the HETA open day, I had the opportunity to speak with a number of women who were already working in engineering. It gave me a lot of confidence and I knew that I was making the right decision to pursue a career in this field.”

Providing positive female role models in industry has contributed to HETA more than doubling its 2018 intake of female apprentices compared to 2017. Its inclusive approach is something that HETA prides itself on across all of its teaching and learning.

“The tutors here at HETA are brilliant,” added Courtney. “We are all treated the same, and even though it can be quite physical, they never give you the impression that they think you are not capable of doing something. They will always persuade you to try and do things for yourself.”

She is due to join the global leader in the supply of innovative super-absorbent fibre materials – Technical Absorbents Ltd (TAL) on the former Courtaulds site in the summer. “We always recruit the strongest candidates,”TAL’s general manager and director Mike Parkington said. “We are excited by the different insights, approaches and perspectives that Courtney will bring to the role.

“Achieving a gender balance and a more diversified workforce are key elements to driving our business forward. It’s great that initiatives such as INWED18 are attracting more women such as Courtney into engineering, and we are sure that she will have a long and fulfilling career with us.”

Read more: North Lincolnshire teenager earns apprenticeship with world-leading firm

The wealth of interesting and varied roles available in engineering has been a real attraction for Hollie, who heads to the North Killingholme refinery alongside Katie. “I never wanted to settle for a job that simply paid the bills. I wanted to push myself to the limit and find out what I am capable of. Which is why I highly recommend engineering as an option.

“If you have even the slightest interest in it, you should go for it. If someone says you can’t, because you’re female – then just do it anyway! I guarantee you will prove them wrong. Don’t let someone else’s prejudice put you off from what you want to do.”

“I absolutely love coming to work,” concluded Courtney. “I wake up in the morning knowing I’m doing something I’m passionate about. No day is ever the same, you are always facing new challenges. The fact that the career prospects and earnings are excellent too makes engineering an amazing option.”

Career in industry recalled 

For Jo Stamp, service centre manager at FLG in Grimsby, heavy lifting has been the only career for her 

She is approaching three decades in the industry.

“I started in 1989, so that’s almost 30 years. I began as a hire controller at the age of 19. I came across an advert for a position with a lifting firm in Grimsby and it was there that I developed the heavy lifting bug. I took on my first management role 10 years later.

“I love lifting and can’t imagine my life without it. From hectic shutdown demands, which require late nights and weekend work, to assessing equipment on fairgrounds, or attending construction and engineering workshops, I enjoy it all.

“I believe it is this passion that has kept me in the industry and given me the drive to get me to where I am today.”

So what does a typical day entail? “I spend a lot of time in my overalls visiting petro-chemical and construction sites. You’ll find me helping customers determine which equipment is suitable for their applications or getting stuck in dealing with any challenges that occur. 

“When I’m not on site, I juggle my time between pricing up lifting enquiries, purchasing equipment, hire, sales, inspections and new installation work, plus dealing with and managing any issues which may arise at the service centre.

“As a specialist division of A-Plant we have the added bonus of being able to offer customers a one-stop solution, so, my role can also involve liaising with other teams including specialist plant, access and accommodation.”

Read more: Industrial consortium ready for 2018 cohort

She has trained and gained competency certificates with The Lifting Equipment Engineers Association and regularly participates in training days with manufacturers to improve her knowledge.

So has working in a typically male dominated industry provided any obstacles? 

“Although it was rare to see a woman working in the industry in the 1980s, I can honestly say this didn’t present any obstacles for me.

“With a name like Jo, I could tell when I went to see a new customer they sometimes thought they were getting a male turning up to site.  However, my professionalism and confidence would reassure them that I was more than qualified for the job.

“In the early days, I spent most of my time in the workshop, learning about the equipment and its capabilities. I worked with great lifting engineers who would show me how to strip down and put back together pieces of lifting equipment. I never felt I was being treated differently because I was female and they always made me feel part of the team.

“I have noticed a steady increase of women entering the industry over the past 30 years which is good to see.

“There is also a greater focus on health and safety which has made construction sites safer places to work.”

As reported last month, ABP's Sarah West was named Humber Renewables' Women in Manufacturing and Engineering winner at a gala dinner. The Grimsby woman and former Royal Navy Commander heads up Immingham Renewable Fuels Terminal, the world’s largest biomass reception port facility. 



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