Young women are being encouraged to consider a career in engineering by a former apprentice who has enjoyed a decade at a global science company.

Lisa Fletcher, an advanced manufacturing engineer at 3M’s Newton Aycliffe plant, met girls from Bishop Auckland’s King James 1st Academy during a tour of South West Durham Training.

The visit was arranged to mark International Women in Engineering Day, held in June. The annual celebration of the achievements of outstanding women engineers aims to raise awareness of the huge range of opportunities for young women in the sector.

Year 10 students Rebecca Jacob, Katie Bennett and Melisa Littlewood, who will next year take their GCSE exams, are all considering careers in engineering.

Lisa, who was an engineering apprentice at South West Durham Training ten years ago, told them her apprenticeship had prepared her well for her career.

She said: “I was able to gain excellent skills throughout my apprenticeship, which set me in good stead as I qualified as a multi-skilled maintainer at 3M.

“An apprenticeship gave me much more than hands on practical skills; it was communication, teamwork, technical knowledge and problem solving.”

Lisa, who moved ‘off the tools’ four years ago having completed a 3M-sponsored BEng (Hons) degree, added: “On a daily basis I look at waste projects, cost reduction and bringing new equipment/technologies to site.”

She also had a positive message for the girls about industry opportunities.

Lisa added: “Women progressing in engineering careers is taking a positive turn. I think the key to this is educating girls at school so they are aware of the opportunities that are available to them – breaking down any misconceptions they may have about working in industry and engineering.

“I wasn’t aware that these careers existed for women when I was in school so it’s a passion of mine to inform young women so they too can become a successful engineer.”

The visiting girls were clearly inspired by the visit and meeting Lisa.

Melissa said: “I haven’t had the opportunity to study engineering at school, but I now hope to move my studies into engineering at South West Durham Training and get an apprenticeship so that I can start my career.”

3M, which employs 400 people in Newton Aycliffe, manufactures reusable and disposable respirators and car care products including finishing compounds and polishes.

It has a long-standing relationship with SWDT, and currently has seven apprentices in maintenance engineering, mechanical and electrical with the training provider, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last December and is part of the Bishop Auckland College Group.

• Pictured above (left to right) are students Rebecca, Katie and Melisa with 3M’s Lisa Fletcher.

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