While all eyes are focused on the UK Referendum on membership of the
European Union, June 23rd is also National Women in Engineering Day,
which is dedicated to celebrating the achievements of women in the profession
and to encourage a new generation of female engineers.
To understand the challenges and rewards of pursuing a career in
engineering, whether in the military or on the civilian side, we asked the
views of three colleagues, each of whom took a very different route to their
current role. These are their stories…
Rebecca is an
Unlicensed Mechanic working for AirTanker Services, based at RAF Brize Norton. After
completing a two-year foundation degree in aerospace engineering at Newcastle
College she is now working towards becoming a fully qualified B1 Licensed Mechanical
Engineer. Rebecca explains what it was like making the leap from studying art
at A/S Level to working on the RAF’s flagship Voyager programme.
“A career in Engineering was not really something I thought
much about, especially when I was at school because it wasn’t a career path
that girls were pushed towards at all. I happened to see a prospectus for the
aerospace engineering course at Newcastle College and went from there. My dad
was in the RAF and we lived at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus for three years, so I’d
had some experience of the military way of life.
“The course is run in conjunction with Kingston University
and we had the opportunity to be hands-on with a number of different aircraft,
including a 737-200, a Jet Provost trainer, a Piper Aztec and a BAC 111. I was
one of only three girls on the course, which I think underlines the need to
encourage more young women to consider engineering as a career path.
“I joined AirTanker in June 2015 from my previous job
working for Panasonic Avionics at Heathrow and I really enjoy the role. The
sheer variety of what we do is probably the most rewarding aspect – dealing
with both military and civil certified aircraft, small modifications, major
conversion programmes – you are learning all the time.
“My aim is to become a B1 Engineer which involves gaining
three years’ experience and completing 12 or 13 exams, which I’m part way
through at the moment.
“My advice to girls thinking about their future career would
be to keep an open mind. Consider the subjects you study; maths and the
sciences are important. Be confident and with the right support, you can do
Liz always had an
affinity with aviation, but the opportunity to start a career in the industry
came out of the blue when she joined AirTanker in September 2014 having just
graduated from Portsmouth University with a degree in Physical Geography. She
hasn’t looked back and is now thoroughly enjoying her current role as a
Technical Systems Analyst.
“There has definitely been a degree of chance in how my
career has taken shape so far. When I first came to AirTanker the organisation
was still quite new and my role was to work as a ‘temp’ on reception covering
“I’ve lived in the area all my life, but knew very little
about the company. I enjoyed the experience and was eager to learn more about
the business, so when an opportunity came up in Tech Records doing a
contracting role I grabbed it with both hands.
“Working in Tech Records introduced me to how we manage maintenance
schedules, components, airworthiness reviews and all the other records that are
the basis for how we track the health of the fleet. It was a really useful
stepping stone to my current role as Technical Systems Analyst – I couldn’t
have taken this position without that experience.
“I’ve been part of the last three aircraft acceptance teams
out in Madrid, [where the A330 is converted to the military Voyager
configuration by Airbus Defence and Space], which helped to increase my
technical knowledge further and it’s made me even more determined to pursue my
ambition to get my B2 licence. I’m quite a hands-on person and being in an
aviation environment has convinced me that this is that right career path.
“I think in terms of engineering as a career option for
women, we’ve broken down a lot of barriers, but there’s still quite a long way
(SAC) Technician Jennifer considered a career in the military right from her
school days and after attending sixth form college she joined the RAF and has
spent the past nine years gaining hands-on experience across both rotary- and
fixed-wing aircraft. She is currently working as an ‘A’ licensed engineer at
AirTanker as a member of the RAF Embedded team.
“It was all about the RAF for me when I was at school.
Growing up I enjoyed fixing cars or tinkering around with anything mechanical
and I always had an interest in aircraft, so by joining the RAF I was able to
combine those passions.
“After completing basic training I attended a technical
school at RAF Cosford to become an RAF maintenance mechanic. I worked on the
Chinook helicopter fleet, which is based at RAF Odiham in Hampshire, before
returning to Cosford to complete my apprenticeship and NVQ in aeronautical
“I spent three years working on the VC-10 as a technician, then
applied for the Voyager posting in 2012 and started work on the Voyager fleet
in 2013. I’m studying for my B1 licensed engineer qualification and have a few
more modules to complete.
“The variety of the job is really fascinating because it
covers everything from routine maintenance to aircraft rectification and there
is always a new challenge just around the corner. Last night’s job was a wheel
change on the aircraft.
“I enjoy the fact that when I’m deployed in support of
global operations I feel that there’s a real purpose to my job and that I’m
making a contribution. I’ve found being in the RAF a very rewarding career so
“Certainly, when I was at school there was no mention of
engineering as a career option for women. Choosing to join the RAF has given me
lots of opportunities and when I leave there are different options, including
working as a Sponsored Reservist on Voyager. I also quite like the idea of a
role that supports the air ambulance service.”