Meet Judith, Semta apprentice of the year

Judith recently won the Apprentice of the Year award at the Semta Skills Awards. Here she tells us all about her career in STEM.

Emily, Digital Team
16 May 2018

In 2018, Judith Mair was named Apprentice of the Year at the Semta Skills Awards. At 18, she started a Rolls-Royce Specialist Science Apprenticeship and now works as a manufacturing lab technologist in non-destructive testing. She’s also studying a day a week towards a bachelor’s in materials engineering at Sheffield Hallam University. We caught up with her to see why she chose a career in STEM…

What does your job involve?

I work in non-destructive testing (NDT), which is testing and evaluating materials for any defects without damaging them, so they can still be used. NDT occurs when things are being made and is critical in engineering.

We use methods such as ultrasonic (like a baby scan), radiography (like an x-ray) and penetrant inspection (using fluorescent dye to detect cracks in the surface).

What do you love most about your job?

There is so much variety in engineering that there is always something new and exciting to explore and learn! Spending placements in different facilities around Rolls-Royce as part of my apprenticeship means you just get immersed in the real-life engineering activities so you learn so much without realising it.

I also think being able to see and work with the actual components that fly passengers safely across the world is inspiring.

Why did you choose a career in STEM?

I preferred sciences, maths, technical drawing and design subjects at school, so wanted a career involving those. I particularly enjoyed chemistry but didn’t want to go to university as I didn’t think the lifestyle would suit me.

This made me look for chemistry apprenticeships and I decided to apply for the Specialist Science Apprenticeship scheme over 400 miles from home at Rolls-Royce.

I ended up following the non-destructive testing route instead of working in labs, which I’d imagined I would, and I love it.

What advice would you give to young women who want to pursue a career in STEM?

  1. Don’t be put off by stereotypes; you could bring a fresh perspective to a team that will really make a difference.
  2. Pursue your passion and explore!
  3. Try and get work experience (or even just visit) different engineering or STEM companies to get a taste for yourself.
  4. Don’t be put off by being the only female in an area, just see this as an opportunity and remember that everyone gets that ‘new person’ feeling.
  5. Consider an apprenticeship – although it can be a challenge studying and working at the same time, it offers so much with the combination of practical experience and studying. And it’s better financially because you’re earning and your employer is paying for your qualification.

What are the benefits of having a job in STEM?

In STEM roles you gain a wide variety of skills and experience that are transferable to other roles, so you have very varied career opportunities – the more you work in STEM, the more interesting things you see and discover.

STEM jobs are critical in the future success of our country, and as things become more technologically advanced and automated, we are going to need more people with STEM skills.

I just find discovering what other people are working on and the advancements in technology and engineering amazing too.

What has been your career highlight?

Winning the 2018 Semta Apprentice of the Year and Best of British Engineering!

Usually, I prefer to hide from the limelight and just come to work to do my best, help others and make improvements.

However winning awards has opened up many opportunities to promote apprenticeships, Rolls-Royce, NDT and STEM to a much wider audience, enabling me to inspire more people, particularly those still at school.

What were you interested in when you were younger? How did this spark your interest in engineering?

I loved playing with Lego and spent more time trying to make my own creations than using standard sets. When I was younger I thought about going into the health profession. However looking back I see how my hobbies have formed my inquisitive mind set and desire to combine practical learning with theory which relates to engineering.

At school, one of my favourite subjects was graphic communication, doing engineering drawings by hand and CAD modelling. Although I don’t use this in my everyday job, the skills I learnt have also helped me in engineering. It was my love for chemistry that led me into Rolls-Royce, but I use my physics knowledge more. Looking back, I always enjoyed the subjects that showed their relevance to real life and explained why things work, which is what engineering is all about.