Apprentice engineer Amber Megan, 17, from Blaydon, chose to enter the world-of-work after leaving school instead of heading to university like her friends.
Keen to earn a living and start a career, Amber is a first year Advanced Manufacturing apprentice with Northumberland-based tissue maker essity and studies at Gateshead College.
A former pupil at Sacred Heart Catholic School for Girls in Newcastle, Amber is one of 14 new apprentice engineers currently training with the company, which manufactures the ‘Velvet’ brand of family toilet tissue at its site in Prudhoe.
Amber explains: “Going to an all girl’s school meant I didn’t have the opportunity to study engineering in any depth, but I’ve always been interested in science and consider myself to be a bit of a problem solver, this led me to consider applying for an apprenticeship where I could apply these skills. I did a lot of research into the schemes out there and as I’d only heard good things about essity, I decided to go for it.”
essity, formerly SCA Hygiene, has been growing its own talent through an award-winning apprenticeship scheme since 2004. The company works in partnership with Gateshead College to deliver training and assessment through practical workshops and theory sessions.
Apprentices spend part of their time at the college’s Team Valley-based Skills Academy for Automotive, Engineering, Manufacturing and Logistics, a £5.5 million purpose-built facility that replicates an authentic workplace environment and has benefited from a recent £300,000 investment in state-of-the-art machinery and tooling equipment.
During the four-year programme, Amber will achieve industry-recognised qualifications in manufacturing and electrical engineering. Upon completion, she will also have the opportunity to pursue higher education qualifications which are paid for by the company.
Amber adds: “I knew before I left school that I didn’t want to go to university. I didn’t want to go back to studying full-time in a classroom environment because I prefer learning in a more practical way. I was also eager to get out there and start on a career path and earn some money.
“Being the only girl in the group was a surprise and a little challenging to begin with but it didn’t take long for me to make some great new friends and I’ve not been treated any differently.
“I think that doing an apprenticeship in engineering is not something a lot of girls my age consider because they don't know enough about it.
“There are lots of opportunities if you are prepared to work hard to succeed. The apprentice route gives you independence and financial security; it is also a great way to get into a successful company like essity. They make tissue products for brands all over the world and there’s lots of scope for progression and working overseas. Eventually I’d like to work for the company in Australia.”
Apprentice team leader at essity, Ian Callender, said: “The North East manufacturing sector has been experiencing a shortage of skilled engineers for several years. We firmly believe the best way to close the gap is to invest in talented youngsters like Amber. She’s 100% committed, articulate and keen to learn, I’ve no doubt she has a bright future ahead of her.
“As a company, we are passionate about supporting young men and women into employment by providing that much-needed step on the career ladder. Since 2004, we have successfully trained over 140 apprentices at Prudhoe Mill, with many of them progressing to senior positions in the company. Apprenticeships provide us with an effective succession plan that ensures we continue to recruit the right people with the right skills to fit across all areas of the business.”
Ivan Jepson, Business Development Director for Gateshead College said: “Through our trusted, longstanding partnership with essity, we are helping the company find the best way of investing their levy payments so it can build a strong workforce for the future through apprenticeships. The training is tailored specifically to the firm’s business needs and is designed to help it become even more efficient, productive and competitive.
“It’s great to see essity investing in apprenticeships, which offer Amber and other young females a route into the STEM industries and the chance to forge a rewarding career in an upwardly mobile company.”