Engineering apprentices, Laura McManus and Michaela Shepherd have broken into traditionally male-dominated territory and become valuable members of the maintenance team at Cambridge’s Addenbrooke’s Hospital.
The pair, who are doing apprenticeships in heating and ventilation, met up with Cambridge MP, Julian Huppert when he went to find out more about their jobs as part of his Celebrating Apprenticeships initiative.
Laura, 26, who took a plumbing course when she was 17, said: “I wanted to move onto an apprenticeship then but no-one would give me one because I was a woman.”
Now she has joined the heating and ventilation apprenticeship at Cambridge Regional College along with Michaela and the pair combine work and study.
“There aren’t many girls doing heating and ventilation but I really enjoy it,” she said. “I like knowing how things work and I like working in the maintenance department. What I like most about doing an apprenticeship is that our tutor at CRC has been there and done it.”
Michaela said: “When I left school I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I got a job working in the storeroom at Addenbrooke’s and then got onto this apprenticeship.
“Working in heating and ventilation is really interesting and challenging. We have to know the science behind what we are doing – we have nine exams in two years. It’s very satisfying when you can do a good piece of pipework yourself.
“Girls might not think about this as a job but there’s no reason why they shouldn’t. You don’t need to be strong, there are always ways around it.”
Julian said: “I’m really impressed with Laura and Michaela. They have proved that women can do really well in construction. I hope that their experiences will encourage other women to look at construction and engineering where there are some very rewarding career opportunities.
“The apprenticeship programme is a great way for young people to find out everything they need to know about a job while working alongside highly skilled people. They get excellent training while getting paid and the programme can dispel a few myths about traditional roles.”