Alice Graham, age 20, has been working at Agfa Graphics as an engineering apprentice for two and a half years and loves the variety in her work.
What does your role at Agfa involve?
I’ve been working for Agfa for two and a half years now. I’m a Mechanical Apprentice working in the maintenance department. Alongside my job I’m studying for qualifications, a NVQ and a Higher National Certificate (HNC) in Mechanical Engineering.
My job is mainly preventative maintenance, checking equipment routinely to make sure it doesn’t break down, finding problems and solving them. It’s really interesting and varied. There are always issues that come up, or a problem occurs and you have to work backwards from there.
How did you get into engineering?
From an early age I’ve always been taking things apart and putting them back together. My grandad had a workshop down the bottom of the garden and he taught me how to use the lathe, handsaws and drills when I was about eight or nine. I’ve been very lucky with my family, they’ve encouraged me to do what I wanted to do.
We didn’t focus on engineering in school but one of my teachers encouraged me to go on a Smallpiece Trust summer school at Newcastle University and that was engineering based.
How did you get into an apprenticeship?
I did a year of A Levels and then I decided I wanted to do an apprenticeship but I was too late for that year. I went to Leeds City College instead and did a Performance Engineering Operations course in Electrical and Mechanical Engineering, then applied for apprenticeships.
What is good about your engineering role?
What I like most is the variety. There’s always lots to learn. If you’re working on a piece of equipment, you have to think how to make it work.
What would you say to other girls about engineering?
If you’re interested in engineering, don’t let yourself get talked out of it because I’ve heard a lot of people get talked out of it. There’s no reason to hold back. It’s not lack of talent or ability to do things that holds girls back.
In my school we were encouraged to choose options early in Y8, so you end up choosing to do what your friends are doing and girls tend to stick together. I could have done a course in resistant materials but I didn’t realise how relevant that was at the time and I wanted to stick with my friends.