In recognition of International Women’s Day (Monday 8th March), the British Plastics Federation (BPF) and the Worshipful Company of Horners have drawn attention to the exceptional performance of women in the previous Polymer Apprentice of the Year competition.
Despite women accounting for just 24% of the UK’s science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce[i], three out of the four finalists, including the ultimate winner, were women.
Although the percentage of women working in STEM-based careers has slightly increased over the past few years, their disproportionate representation highlights the importance of continuing work intended to increase the number of women choosing to embark on careers within these industries. The fact that the Polymer Apprentice of the Year finalists were predominantly female reflects a positive change as well as the outstanding performance of those involved.
Announced in February 2021, the competition was won by Emily Harris from Berry Global Plasgran. Lavinia Stevenson of Mason Pinder and Megan Denham of Owen Mumford were both highly commended.
The winner, Emily Harris, is completing a Mechatronics Maintenance Engineering Apprenticeship BTEC Level 3 and has demonstrated a high level of achievement in both her apprenticeship and out-of-work activities. The judges believed that her work with MindSpace and her ambition to become a STEM ambassador to inspire young women to become engineers demonstrated great character and maturity. Along with her certificate, Emily was awarded with a ceremonial drinking horn and a £500 cash prize.
Commenting on her role and on receiving the award, Emily Harris stated:
“I am pleased to say that this is my first role within the plastics industry and I’m currently in the second year of my apprenticeship, working towards a Level 3 BTEC qualification. As part of my development, I’m working on various production improvement projects. You should always have confidence in your ambitions and believe in yourself. The studying is just as important as working on the shop floor; finding a way to balance the study elements of the apprenticeship is fundamental to your success in becoming an engineer.”
Highly commended recipient Megan Denham impressed the judges with her confidence and technical ability. She commented on why she chose to work within the plastics industry:
“I was attracted to the plastics industry as initially, I did not know much about it – but after researching it whilst searching for an apprenticeship, I realised how vast the industry is. It seemed like a good industry to get into, as I felt that so many aspects of it sounded really interesting.”
Lavinia Stevenson of Mason Pinder was highly commended by the judges for her attitude towards learning and her drive. She stated:
“My first role as an employee at Mason Pinder was as a toolmaker apprentice. Now, however, I have migrated towards the design side and reside within the drawing office. However, it wasn’t a quick transition, as I wanted to learn each aspect of the tooling we would deal with so that I could gain a more comprehensive view overall.”
Director-General of the British Plastics Federation Philip Law commented:
“It is inspiring to reflect that women will play a much more prominent role in the direction of the plastics industry in the years to come, a crucial facet in making the industry more sustainable.”