28 Jan Part 1: Celebrating Women in Engineering
As one of the longest-serving employees in Welshpool, we spoke to Shelagh Gill about her experience as a female in engineering, including some of the challenges and opportunities she’s experienced over the last 45 years.
We’re celebrating ten years here in Welshpool this year. So, tell everyone, who are you and what do you do?
Hello! I’m Shelagh Gill, a Quality Manager here at Dawson Shanahan. I started here in 1973 when it was FloForm, which was acquired in 2009 by Dawson Shanahan, so I had two weeks when I didn’t work whilst it was being negotiated, and then I came back and yes…still here! I really enjoy what I do.
What are some of the highs you’ve experienced over the last ten years?
Shelagh: Dawson Shanahan are very good at investment. Over the years they’ve invested a lot of money in new machinery and in people, including training opportunities. Any training requests that support the business are encouraged. They’re probably [laughs] and I’m not saying this because I work here, they’re the best employer I’ve worked for and it is like a family business that operates on a global scale.
How did you find the job in the early 70s, was it an apprenticeship?
Shelagh: [laughs] No, no, no… I started here as an ‘Inspector’ which was a role of checking the parts before they all went out. Then gradually over the years, I worked my way up, through on the job training. I left school without any qualifications but then over the years, I undertook a management apprenticeship and have those qualifications now.
Are you surprised by how few women there are in engineering (11% of engineers are women)?
Shelagh: Its always been a male orientated business and it has been hard particularly through the early years. But attitudes have changed. The company encourages and welcomes female employees from the factory floor as ‘setters’ to team leaders. Women offer a different skillset that benefit a business and fortunately, it’s more visible now than ever before.
If you were to encourage young people to come into manufacturing or engineering, what do you think is the best root for them?
Shelagh: Definitely an apprenticeship. Here at Dawson Shanahan, we’ve got a superb apprenticeship scheme. They start full-time at college and then it shifts to three days a week here and two days at college. Finally, it goes down to one day a week at college. They get a good balance of on the job experience, as well as academic knowledge. In my opinion, it is the best way forward. When they start, they are only 16 and wouldn’t cope if they were put into work doing full-time hours. By doing it this way they get to do their schoolwork and enjoy school hours.
How many people are on the apprentice scheme today?
It’s rolling so we have three that started in September; three from the year before and three from the year before that and so forth. It’s a great programme and this is a fantastic opportunity for enthusiastic youngsters.
How long does the programme last?
The apprenticeship lasts for three years and if they want to go on to higher qualification level, they can, depending on what course they’re taking.
Catch up with more from our ‘Women in Engineering’ series next month.