An Engineering Apprenticeship from the perspective of a female apprentice

To recognise International Women’s Day and National Apprenticeship Week, we caught up with our second-year apprentice, Chelsea Cowling to find out how she’s getting on with her apprenticeship so far…

Name – Chelsea Cowling

Age – 24 Years


Why I chose to do an Engineering Apprenticeship?

From a young age, I have always been a hands-on person. My family near enough all had jobs in engineering, and in their spare time, enjoyed making different things in which I got involved in. Going to college, I knew I wanted to do engineering. Being a woman, I didn’t think it would have been as good as it was (as I was the only girl in my year doing engineering) but it was brilliant! The guys were lovely, and it was great to meet new people, and feel like I fitted in as well.

Once I completed the three years, I had qualified with a HNC in Electrical and Electronic Engineering. I applied for several engineering jobs but struggled, although I had gained the qualifications, I hadn’t actually gained any hands-on experience. So, at this point I wish I had gone straight in to an engineering apprenticeship, where I could have gained all the qualifications I had just completed but also have the hands-on knowledge that most jobs required.

The reasons I applied to do an Engineering Apprenticeship:

  1. Engineers are always in high demand. They give you the opportunity to develop the valuable skills that so many companies are constantly looking out for.

  2. You can gain practical and relevant experience. Today’s apprenticeships offer a structured programme of both theoretical learning - either at a college or engineering academy, like Uniper - as well as gaining practical on-the-job training.

  3. You earn money while you learn! Obviously being an apprentice, you’re paid while learning, which means you don’t have any debt from going to college or university. With Uniper, you also find that they pay for your accommodation while you are away training, as well as your meals throughout the day!

  4. If you put 100% into your apprenticeship, you will achieve a nationally recognised qualification, such as an NVQ. This is a solid foundation to begin your career on and will help you in the future for when your applying for future careers with the company.

  5. There’s always a chance to progress with your company. If the company offers you the opportunity to train with them, it’s more than likely they value you as an individual and if you put in the effort, hopefully they want you to stay with them after the training is complete, giving you the chance to further your knowledge and experience with the company!  

Who wouldn’t want to do an engineering apprenticeship!? 


Things I have learnt during my apprenticeship:

Since starting my apprenticeship I felt I wasn’t as confident as I should have been. I spent a lot of time at the academy doing training courses such as Basic Hand skills, Pipework, Electrical safety and Principles. I enjoyed the courses that I had completed and was looking forward to putting my knowledge to the test when I went on site.

Whilst the first year involved a lot of theory and gaining of underpinning knowledge, the second year was a lot busier on site. This practical application gave me confidence in my knowledge of tasks and at last I was gaining experience! As the year went on, jobs increased to include - Removal and Replacement of Gas Detectors, Calibration of Gas Detectors, Calibration of Pressure Gauges, which I hadn’t done with regards to the training courses but knew it would be coming up in the future with regards to training courses. After Christmas came, I was back at the academy completing more training courses, these included things like, Shaft Alignment, Rigging and Slinging, Electrical Installation, Pressure, Level and Flow, Temperature Measurement, Motors, and Water and Gas Analysis.

Since starting my second year, I have spent the time at another site to vary my experience during quiet spells. During a two-week period at Ratcliffe, I spent a day being shown around the plant by another apprentice and I also spent a week with the C&I team where I did jobs such as Routine CEMS (continuous emissions monitoring system) check on unit 3 FGD Inlet Dust monitor. During this time, I learnt about how the CEMS system constantly measures/monitors the flue gas for oxygen, carbon monoxide/dioxide to provide information for combustion control, also having to comply with the environmental agency.

Having the opportunity to also go to other Uniper sites to gain valuable knowledge and more experience is definitely the highlight for me. I get to meet and work with new people every day, and to me, this is important so that you gain valuable knowledge from different people. I am definitely glad I have chosen to go down the apprenticeship route and cannot wait to see how my future will turn out after completion!

Chelsea Cowling