"Engineering isn’t just a man’s job"
Published: 09 Apr 2014 By Lorraine Mullaney, Sub Editor at FoodManufacture.co.uk
Being female is no barrier to being an engineer, according to Dawn Woodcock, who’s a multi-skilled maintenance apprentice at Mondelēz International
Did you want to study engineering from a young age?
I’ve always been interested in engineering and manufacturing, even from a young age and decided it was definitely something I wanted to do when I saw the range of job opportunities out there. I left school and started an electrical installation apprenticeship with a local engineering company, before moving to Mondelēz International’s biscuit and gum and candy factory in Sheffield.
Were there any barriers along the educational route?
My teachers were always completely supportive of my decision, and there were so many options for me in terms of training and gaining the necessary education that I didn’t face any struggles. The only real barrier I encountered along my journey was when I was at my first apprenticeship placement at a local engineering company, where, due to the economic climate I was unfortunately made redundant. At this time I was three years into my apprenticeship and had to go to two other local companies in Sheffield to finish the scheme and get my qualifications. I then joined Mondelēz International as an operator working on candy production, but I immediately saw the value in the Engineering Apprenticeship offered, so moved from my current role to apply to that scheme.
Now that you're in the workplace, is it hard for you to be taken seriously as a female engineer?
Not at all! I’ve never felt that I’m treated differently by my colleagues just because I’m a woman.
Do you think you have to work twice as hard as the men?
Absolutely not – we’re all very much a team. We work closely together and everyone is judged on their merits. I was part of the initial team that installed and commissioned the new Oreo line in Sheffield and everyone from the contractors, engineers, operators, managers and department manager all got stuck in on long shifts together. It proved to me that the Sheffield site can do anything if we work together.
What particular skills does it take to be an engineer?
A keen eye, can-do attitude and thirst for learning! Mondelēz is always looking to innovate and create new products, meaning the machinery has to match this ambition. Our day-to-day roles are always evolving, which is really exciting.
What's the biggest challenge in your job?
The biggest challenge I face is making sure I have enough time to complete my college work, alongside my day-to-day roles and responsibilities. I’m also working towards my NVQ Level 3 ‘Engineered Systems Maintenance’ so I have to make sure I’m striking the right balance.
What do you like most about your job?
It’s a really varied role, so there are lots of exciting experiences on offer. As the food manufacturing industry is changing there are lots of new skills to learn and I like the challenge that this offers. It’s also really fun to know that you’re responsible for making some of the country’s best loved products, like Oreos and Trebor Mints.
What advice would you give to other girls considering a career as a female engineer?
I would say to any girls considering a career as an engineer that they shouldn’t be put off by old-fashioned misconceptions that it’s a ‘man’s job’. I would however suggest to anyone thinking about engineering to try a taster course so they get a really good understanding of what the role entails.