Dawn James, Amec Foster Wheeler

Dawn James, currently Vice President for Amec Foster Wheeler’s Clean Energy business, has come a long way since beginning her career as an apprentice with Williams Fairey Engineering.

My apprenticeship in mechanical engineering led me to joining PWR Power Projects, where I progressed into a Responsible Engineer role working on the construction of Sizewell B. I moved to WasteChem (now Nuvia), working on the project management of decommissioning projects at Dounreay, Sellafield and Sizewell A.

For the past 17 years I’ve worked for Amec Foster Wheeler (formerly NNC and AMEC), where I have led businesses involved in both decommissioning and nuclear operations. During this time I completed a two and a half year secondment into the Nuclear Management Partners PBO at Sellafield as the Engineering Director.

I’m currently Vice President for Clean Energy’s New Nuclear and Generation Services business and am responsible for over 500 engineers, scientists, consultants, safety case specialists and project managers supporting the civil nuclear sector and new nuclear developers and investors in UK, France Romania and South Africa’s civil nuclear power and defence industries.

My experience of leadership roles in both customer and contractor organisations means I have a comprehensive understanding of both the opportunities and challenges facing the nuclear industry.

This is such an exciting sector to work in and I would strongly encourage students considering an apprenticeship in engineering to consider the nuclear sector.

© Amec Foster Wheeler
© National Nuclear Laboratory

Kerry Burns, National Nuclear Laboratory

I completed my three-year apprenticeship with the National Nuclear Laboratory in September 2016. Much of my work is primarily carried out in laboratory conditions and I have been trained in all analytical techniques used within the team including use of Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) equipment.

I recently worked on a project alongside the Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL) in the USA to compare analytical techniques for the durability qualification of vitrified glass products. I travelled to the US to learn about ways of working at SRNL, which had great benefits and I was also involved in a successful reciprocal visit by SRNL to the UK.

I use my experience as a recent apprentice, passing on what my knowledge of the work being undertaken in NNL’s non-active and active laboratories to students, industrial placements and new starters within the company.

I finished my HNC in Applied Chemistry in the first 18 months of the apprenticeship and am now studying for my HND and NVQ Level 3 in Laboratory and Associated Activities. Once I’ve finished that I will look at starting a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry.

Gemma Hay, EDF Energy

Thirty three year old Gemma Hay from Eyemouth is in her 3rd year of EDF Energy’s Engineering Maintenance Apprenticeship scheme at Torness power station.

I know I’m not a stereotypical engineering apprentice. I wasn’t very hands-on growing up. I didn’t spend my spare time tinkering with cars in the garage; the most I managed was building a few CD racks, but I was fascinated by Torness power station when I used to pass it as a child and I always wondered what it would be like to work there.

It’s also fair to say that I am a little older than the average apprentice. I started working in an opticians when I was about 18 years old and stayed there for 12 years. I worked my way up to become a dispensing optician, but I wasn’t going to progress any further and I knew that I wanted to do something else with my life.

About three years ago I decided to take a leap of faith.  I left my job and spent nine months as a cleaner at Torness to find out what working at the station was like.  Fortunately, I loved it and decided to apply for the Engineering Maintenance Apprenticeship.

Now that I am in the third year of the programme I have come back to site to finish my training, following time training at HMS Sultan in Portsmouth. I am really enjoying getting to know the plant and working with different teams. There is so much knowledge to absorb and I have started college to study for my HNC.

If I was to give advice to other women thinking about a career in engineering I would simply say, ‘Go for it’; the industry is changing and don’t be put off by the perception it is a male dominated environment.

I am so glad I decided to apply for the apprenticeship programme. It has opened up so many opportunities to me and now I am looking forward to a varied and fulfilling career with EDF Energy.

© EDF Energy