A Tale of an Apprentice – The Future of Engineering 

NG Bailey, the UK’s largest independent engineering, construction and services company, started training apprentices in 1934 and now attracts over 4,000 applications to its scheme each year. We invited a recent graduate of the scheme and a current apprentice to share their experiences.

“It’s like running the world,” says Reanna Evans when asked to describe her role as Project Manager at NG Bailey. Four years on from the end of her apprenticeship, Reanna has been promoted to a senior position and recently named Graduate of the Year. Here’s her story. 

I’d always been interested in STEM subjects at school and I was originally thinking of a career in veterinary medicine when a careers adviser suggested engineering. I just assumed engineering meant mechanics and wasn’t aware of the opportunities it offered. However, when I went home and talked about it with my family, it turned out that I’d had a relative who’d worked at NG Bailey many years ago. I heard about all the different projects they’d worked on – railways, big buildings etc. – and it sparked my interest.

The best decision

At the time I was doing AS Levels at college, but a combination of wanting to earn money and being fed-up of being treated like a child by the tutors, made an apprenticeship feel like a good opportunity. It turned out to be the best decision. On a professional level, it meant that I was acquiring skills and knowledge alongside experience and developing a maturity that has led me to a senior position within three years of finishing my apprenticeship, and saw me win the Graduate of the Year award. If I’d come straight from university, I just wouldn’t have those skills and practical experience.

It’s also changed me as a person. At school, I was bullied and quite introverted. As soon as my apprenticeship started, I felt welcomed and involved. I’m now confident in managing my team, controlling costs and meeting budget and specification demands on a daily basis.

Finding inspiration

There have been tough times, of course. You’re working a contracted 37.5 hour week, but studying on top can easily take that up to 42-43 hours. Plus I have a two-hour each way commute to work – but that just shows how much I love my job! Interacting with older, predominantly male engineers, who maybe didn’t like listening to a younger female, took some getting used to, but it’s all part of learning to manage people. The fact was that there were no female role models, but I was inspired by the qualities and professionalism of many of my male colleagues.

Exploring new opportunities

Our industry remains largely male-dominated, particularly on the contract side of the business. Although women are increasingly looking at engineering as a career option, it’s mainly design or consultancy focused. For me, contracting might mean you come home a bit dusty after a day on site, but the breadth of experiences you encounter is invaluable. That’s why I’ve become a STEM Ambassador for the BESA (Building Engineering Services Association) Future Leaders Group. Our aim is to bridge the skills gap and encourage more young people – both male and female – into the profession. One of my own initiatives is working alongside the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester to identify young people with an interest in engineering, and then offer them a two-week placement to find out more about the opportunities available.

For me, engineering opens up so many possibilities and I’m keen to explore them and rise as high as I can in a career that I love.

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