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Lois Preece, apprentice instrument technician, Barrow Gas Terminals

If you had asked me what I wanted to do as a job when I was growing up, I never would have said that I wanted to be an engineer.

Ever since I was little, and right up to when I did my GCSEs, I wanted to be a vet – unfortunately I really didn’t like biology, so I started thinking about the other things I enjoyed. I really liked maths, technology and electronics classes at school too, and I had heard a lot about those kinds of industries wanting more women to join, so I decided I wanted to take on that challenge.

Even then, I wasn’t sure if an apprenticeship was the right route. I had already applied for a degree at university, but wanted to keep my options open and so applied for apprenticeships as well. When I was accepted for the Centrica scheme, I weighed up my options and felt that getting the hands-on experience, plus a qualification, was the right move for me.

Since then, I haven’t regretted my decision. I spent my first year at Furness College in Barrow-in-Furness – close to Centrica’s Barrow Gas Terminals – but it was when I got to start work on site for the first time at the end of my first year that I really started enjoying the course.

When I first started at the terminals, I wasn’t sure at first what my days would be like – I knew I was going to be an instrument engineer but I did not know all of what that entailed, and it was exciting to come here and learn more about what we do. The other thing that was a massive surprise for me was just how big the terminals are – I probably get all the exercise I need just walking around the site. It’s a bit daunting but you very quickly become part of the team and everyone really wants to help.

Now, I spend a day and an evening at Furness College every week so I can continue studying, and for the other four days I shadow someone at the terminals – it might be a different person each day though, depending on the work we’re doing, and it means I can learn from lots of different engineers. Some have been here for 20 years or more, and it’s great to learn from their experiences.

I think apprenticeships are overlooked. When I was at school all of the focus was on writing your personal statement for university places, as if that was the only option. I have friends who say university is great, but it isn’t for everyone and there are other options where you can learn in a different way. I also know that, at the end of the apprenticeship, I can keep studying and earn a degree as well – I’m not sure if that’s what I want to do yet, but it’s great to know that I still have a lot of options on where I want my career to go.

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