As well as it being National Apprenticeship Week, today we also celebrate International Women’s Day, which is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

Across industry, research shows that women account for only three per cent of technicians and six per cent of engineers even though all evidence points to the fact that a more diverse workforce would increase productivity in the STEM sector.

ADS members in the UK’s Aerospace, Defence, Security and Space sectors are actively trying to address this gender gap, with larger companies having:

  • 15 per cent female workforce
  • 25 per cent female graduates, trainees and apprentices

At Airbus Group, women represent 17 per cent of their workforce, making up 21 per cent of new recruits in 2013. Many companies also have outreach programmes to encourage girls to consider STEM careers.  Rolls-Royce work with the Outward Bound Trust to offer residential courses for 14-15 year old girls, with mentoring support from incumbent female Rolls-Royce apprentices.

There are some encouraging signs of progress. Between 2012 and 2014 the number of women working as professional engineers in the UK more than doubled with the number always growing. Recently in the House of Lords, Lord Prior, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at BEIS said:

“It is interesting that only 15 per cent of women graduate in this [engineering] subject […] Interestingly, I went to Rolls-Royce last week and met a number of apprentices there, some of whom are doing degree-level apprenticeships. That may be one way of increasing the number of women going into this area. It has been a problem for many years and we are only in the foothills of cracking it.”

Rolls-Royce has taken some important steps in inspiring and encouraging women to become apprentices – here is what some of Rolls-Royce’s apprentices had to say:


Name: Hannah Naqwi

Age: 17

Title of apprenticeship: Advanced Technical Apprenticeship

Year of apprenticeship: Year 1 – 2016 intake

Why did you choose / what inspired you to become an apprentice?

I have always been interested in engineering. When I was young as I always liked to build models at home and when I was in year 9 I applied for the Young Apprenticeship at Rolls-Royce. When I got accepted, I was so excited. I came to Rolls-Royce once a week during my GCSEs where I completed numerous sections such as turning, electronics and welding. We also completed a BTEC level 2 with Derby College. During the Young Apprenticeship, I decided to apply for the full time Advanced Technical Apprenticeship at Rolls-Royce because I had enjoyed the Young Apprenticeship so much

What advice would you give to other women considering an apprenticeship?

To any woman considering doing an apprenticeship in engineering then I would definitely recommend it as choosing the apprenticeship at Rolls-Royce is the best decision I have ever made. If you are not fully sure then I would suggest doing some work experience in the business that you are considering applying for, so that you can start to understand what the sort of work you could do.


Name: Harriet Simes

Age: 20

Title of apprenticeship: Supply Chain Management Higher Apprentice

Year of apprenticeship: Year 2 – 2015 intake

What is your favourite thing about working at Rolls-Royce?

My favourite thing about working for Rolls-Royce is being part of a global organisation. Having the opportunity to be part of a diverse workforce with people from all over the world is exciting as you get the chance to understand more about different cultures.  As well as this, creating high quality power systems is extremely complex and innovative.  I really enjoy being able to move around different placements in the supply chain and taking on a variety of roles from dealing with customers, to being on the shop floor and helping manage the supply chain demand and manufacturing processes. The variety of experiences I have had so far has given me the opportunity to get out of my comfort zone and develop my professional skills and competencies.

What is the most exciting project you have worked on during your apprenticeship?

Since starting my apprenticeship, the most exciting project I have been on is an improvement project set up to help reduce a product lead time by improving the speed of an external process performed by a sub contracted company. I was the sole point of contact for this company and it was my responsibility to manage the flow of material out to the organisation, make priority calls on the order the material was processed and communicate to relevant stakeholders within Rolls-Royce. This gave me the chance to work with a wide range of people, improve my ability to make decisions under pressure as well as my communication and management skills. This was a large amount of responsibility but I had the opportunity to take ownership over a project and its performance and as a result, make a real difference to the supply chain unit’s performance.


Name: Annabel Hibbert

Age: 19

Title of apprenticeship: Higher Engineering Apprentice

Year of apprenticeship: Year 2 -2015 intake

What is the most exciting project you have worked on during your apprenticeship?

I am only in my second placement at the company, but have already done more things than I could possibly imagine. I have witnessed the engine I collected parts for in future programmes going on its transport plane ready for ice testing in Manitoba, and even seen the Rolls-Royce Spitfire in its hangar – but I’d say the most exciting project that I have worked on during my apprenticeship is being the team lead, from a development perspective, of the defining of the method to be used to attach strain gauges to a Ceramic Matrix Composite (CMC) segment which is to be used in UltraFan. Having that responsibility was really exciting, and it was quite humbling being the person from development that was the most knowledgeable on a subject.

Why did you choose / what inspired you to become an apprentice?

I was sponsored through sixth form by Rolls-Royce via an Arkwright Engineering Scholarship, and it was through this that I spent a week at the company doing work experience. That week completely changed my view of apprenticeships (my original plan was to study engineering at university), and it was the encouragement from the people and ex-apprentices that I was with that made me search for the application process to come to Rolls-Royce. My first day as an employee at the company was less than a year later, and I’ve never looked back!


Name: Kiran Samra 

Age: 19

Title of apprenticeship: Project Management Higher Apprentice

Year of apprenticeship: Year 2- 2015 intake

What advice would you give to other women considering an apprenticeship?

Apprenticeships are an incredibly viable option for everyone regardless of gender. Although the engineering sector is considered to be male dominated, more and more women are entering the company and making a massive impact. I would encourage anybody to consider an apprenticeship and gain a head start in their career by gaining valuable experience within a company that can then be applied throughout the rest of their working life.

What is your favourite thing about working at Rolls Royce?

Rolls-Royce is a world recognised company with a reputation of being incredibly reliable and therefore there is a large sense of pride in being a Rolls-Royce employee. As it is such a large company there is also the opportunity for huge amounts of diversity within roles and therefore it is possible to constantly be involved in new projects experiencing different challenges.