Q&A Feb 18, 2021

Q&A: Talking with Katie Rotherham, Engineering Degree Apprentice in the UK

We caught up with Katie to talk about her career in STEAM and how she’s inspiring others.

Q&A Talking with Katie Rotherham, Engineering Degree Apprentice

Jacobs Engineering Degree Apprentice, Katie Rotherham, recently met the U.K. Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills, Gillian Keegan MP, to exchange learning and experiences as part of National Apprenticeships Week. The Minister is the only current U.K. Member of Parliament to have done a degree apprenticeship and is passionate about more young women being able to pursue this pathway. Katie was one of five young apprentices representing the range of apprenticeship entry levels to join the discussion. Chaired by Christine Hodgson CBE Chair of the Careers and Enterprise Company and Severn Trent Plc, the forum provided the apprentices the opportunity to share insight with the Minister about what inspired them, how the U.K. Government can reach more young people and the barriers they faced pursing this pathway.

Here, we connect with Katie on her STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) career journey to date and what inspired her to become a STEAM ambassador.

What inspired you to pursue an apprenticeship and a career in STEAM?

At school and college, I always loved STEAM subjects such as product design, resistant materials and electronics. I also really enjoyed biology. I think it was mainly seeing the way things work and getting to see projects I did go from an idea to a physical object in front of me. One of my teachers was always really enthusiastic and encouraged me to do some work experience in design. After completing work experience with a CAD team who designed stair lifts,  I was given the opportunity to do the Industrial Cadets program and the big project with Jacobs. Through these experiences I was able to see what careers I could go into using my love of design technology and that university isn’t always the only or best route to follow.

How are schools and colleges helping when young people are considering a technical/vocational route, how this is changing and how could it be improved further?

I think it’s clear that colleges in the U.K. do tend to push people more towards university than anything else and there is still a stigma around apprenticeships that they’re for people who perhaps don’t do as well in school or with exams and that you can’t get any further education when doing them. In fact the opposite is true.

I think we need to breakdown the stigmas around apprenticeships and let young people know all their options from the start of their education.

How are you getting involved as a STEAM Ambassador and inspiring young women to pursue technical/vocational paths?

I have gone back into my old school/college to be a mentor to others who have taken part in the Big project, as well as helping with the groups who come in to do the Industrial Cadets program with Jacobs. Before the pandemic, I also had the experience of going into a school in Catterick to do support a STEM information event.

What’s your favorite part of your Ambassador role?

My favorite part is definitely going in and meeting the children that were once in my position and helping them to get where they need to be. I look forward to being able to do this again soon.

What is a typical day like in your role?

On a typical day I will be in (currently virtual) team meetings about different projects, working on CAD drawings, speaking with experienced engineers about why I am doing these drawings and what the next steps will be in the project. They also guide me on the best ways to complete my tasks.

Most proud career moment so far?

My proudest career moment so far is my meeting with Gillian Keegan, the Minister of Apprenticeships that took place last week. It was an amazing opportunity where I got to have a conversation with someone who I never normally would of have the chance to speak to. She is an amazing, inspiring woman who is extremely passionate and enthusiastic about apprenticeships and women in stem.

What is the main thing you took away from your meeting with the minister?

My main takeaway from the meeting with the Minister is that we need to continue being role models for young people and spread the ‘best kept secret’ that is apprenticeships. Experience is invaluable and the Minister encouraged us to take every opportunity we possibly can – as ‘nothing is as scary as it first seems’.

If you aren’t working, what would we be most likely to find you doing?

When I’m not working, I like to spend time with friends and family and I really enjoy cooking as I’m a massive foodie! I also try to read when I find the time or binge watch my favorite TV shows.

What do you enjoy most about being part of the Jacobs family?

I really enjoy the network of colleges and friends that I have created while working here; and that there is always opportunity to grow and learn within your role, no matter how far up the ladder you get.

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