A hands-on approach to workplace equality

9th February 2021

Gender should not define your career – if you are passionate about something you will always learn and achieve – and apprenticeships can often be the way, writes Carys Godding, Automation, Telemetry & Control Project Manager, Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water

I recently visited Barcelona on holiday where I went to see the Sagrada Familia, the famous Basilica built by Antoni Gaudi. Walking around with our tour guide, I got to understand what type of man Gaudi was, to my surprise he wasn’t an architect he was an engineer that had a flare for architecture.

He started the project in his early 30s and devoted 43 years of his life to designing and building the Basilica which is still not finished. To me that is something so special that he always knew he wouldn’t ever witness the end result of his creation, yet he was still extremely committed, didn’t simplify or rush the build as he wanted it exactly how he’d designed it.

His most famous quote, which is inside the building says: “To do things right, first you need love, then technique”. For me this is a key message to anyone considering a career in engineering, especially girls and young women – if it’s something you want to do, don’t be afraid – you can and will succeed.

At 16 I began my career as an apprentice – alongside my sister Nia as the first two female engineers in the history of Aberthaw power station.

Admittedly this was not only special but incredibly daunting – entering a male dominated environment where they had never experienced women in an equivalent role before. Initially there was a huge push back from the teams, but over time some of the engineers started to see our potential, and that our abilities were equal to those of any male.

Slowly barriers were broken down and we began to build relationships. Disregarding and ignoring turned to mentoring and looking out for us. After four years I completed my technical apprenticeship and became an Instrumentation & Control Technician and had over 100 work-based fathers to boot!

I eventually moved on to Welsh Water where I have progressed again, currently working as an Automation, Telemetry & Control Project Manager and I have been a key contributor and supporter to the Technical Graduate programme. Welsh Water was awarded the ‘Top employer in the Energy & Utilities Sector’ by the School Leavers Awards 2020’ and has an apprenticeship programme recently voted the ‘Best Intermediate and Higher Apprenticeship’.

Apprenticeships should be encouraged by our schools, communities, and employers for young individuals as a viable alternative route to University. The apprentice program is a great way for young individuals who want to enter the working environment, whilst also continuing to further their education. In my experience you can still reach the same end goal of higher education, degree, masters and so on but with the added benefit of job experience and a financial income. The apprenticeship gave me an opportunity to learn

through a hands-on environment, which to me is invaluable to any job role but even more so for engineering and STEM roles.

Employers are even more likely to offer job opportunities at the end of the program as they will have already invested in your education and experience – something that is key for succession of an engineering workforce.

Due to my experiences I have always taken time to support young adults, apprentices and graduates with their journeys, and to help remove the stigma of the ‘male only dominated environment’ for the engineering sector. I have mentored women in engineering at my workplaces, been a speaker at events including Chwarae Teg’s leadership graduation ceremonies, supported the Welsh Engineering Wales Schemes and even engaged with Welsh Government about my experiences.

My career in engineering has been great, I have had some incredibly varied roles, from front line fault diagnosis, to environmental conditioning and monitoring, to project management, and even recently line management experience.

Engineering as a career can be so diverse and isn’t always the portrayed ‘dirty, wet, cold’ job that most think it may be. There are engineers developing everything and anything around us every day, from sport equipment, VAR (video action replay) systems, motor sport with electrical vehicles to medical engineering designing virtual reality medical treatment, prosthetic limbs and aerospace – the list is endless.

It is encouraging that there are now more females in engineering roles than when I began my career 14 years ago, but there is still a deficit, and it is our role to encourage the next generation of career changers who may have been put off by entering a STEM driven environment to now make the decision.

Carys Godding is an Automation, Telemetry & Control Project Manager at Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water. Passionate about learning and supporting others to do so, Carys has progressed from apprentice to obtaining a first-class degree in Electrical Engineering and was the recipient of the Learner Award at Chwarae Teg’s Womenspire 2020.