Business news

Coffee with Sarah Helps Women Step into Engineering Industry

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South Eastern Regional College (SERC)

15th Jan 2024

 The dawn of a New Year is often the marker for change in many people’s lives. But what if you could find out how to take that first step to making the change you want, rather than deliberating over taking a plunge?   If this sounds a better option, come along and have a ‘Coffee with Sarah’ from 10am to 12noon on Thursday 25 January at SERC’s Space Campus, Castle Park Road, Bangor.

Following school, Sarah Hewitt 33, from Belfast, worked in her family’s retail business for several years before stepping into an apprenticeship in Manufacturing Engineering.  The mum of two little girls said, “After seven years in retail, I needed a change but had no idea where to start.   It was hard to consider a significant career change when I had financial commitments, such as a mortgage, so I needed something to further myself but still earning.  It was my husband who initially suggested looking at an apprenticeship and that’s when I found opportunities at Thales, where SERC was the learning provider.”

She continued, “Before I started an apprenticeship, my understanding of what it would entail was very different to the programme I completed. Since I had some A-Levels, I was able to commence at the Higher-Level Apprenticeship (HLA) and completed a three-year programme (over five years due to Covid and starting my family). During this time, I worked alongside qualified Engineers across several departments within Thales as well as studying at SERC one day a week. This approach to learning was new to me and I found being able to learn on the job beneficial as I had been out of education for many years.  I didn’t know opportunities like this existed and I am keen to share my journey with other women who want to make a change.”

“The support I received from SERC and Thales during both my studies and my return to work after maternity leave has been a key factor in achieving my foundation degree through the HLA programme. Since completing my apprenticeship, I have had further opportunity to progress my career at Thales and have started a new role as Social Impact Manager for the organisation in Belfast.”

Aine McGreeghan, Deputy Head of Engineering at SERC said, “The skills gap in engineering and the imbalance of women working in the engineering industry is well documented.  Through a range of initiatives, SERC is working with local manufacturers to help bridge the gap by supporting women to take the first steps into a rewarding career in industry.

She added, “Making any kind of change can be challenging, but knowing about the opportunities, pathways and support available, can equip women with the information to take the first step.   At SERC, we have extensive experience of working with adult returners, people who want a second chance to turn a job into a career and Sarah’s experience perfectly illustrates some of the challenges, pathways and timescales for making a change and learning about stepping into industry through SERC.”

If you would like to attend and have a chat with Sarah about her journey book your place: