FOUR Hartlepool College of Further Education apprentices are encouraging more young women to enter the engineering industry after finding success at an articulated truck maker.

The college has been working with Caterpillar since 2012 and is supporting 22 advanced apprentices working at Peterlee plant, in east Durham, with nearly 25 per cent of those being women.

Molly Shadforth, 19, Alisha Dixon, 18, Catherine Grimely, 20, and Sarah King, 18, have learned first-hand what being a woman in the industry is like and are continuing to use that knowledge to inspire others through careers fairs and events across the region.

Molly, a mechanical fitter, said: “I like it when we get the opportunity to go to schools and speak to the pupils and I try to target the girls to help battle the misconceptions of the industry.

“If someone said to me three years ago I’d be helping build trucks as a job, I would never have believed them.

"It’s something I really enjoy now and I think a lot of girls are put off from it for certain reasons.

"They might think it’s only for boys and it’s not the case.

“I think of myself as a girly girl and I feel I’m proof that girls can do the job.

"When we go into schools I’m quite passionate about it because I believe everything I’m saying.

"I’m not just saying it to try and get them to join the industry, I’m saying it because I really enjoy my job.

“I think it’s important that more girls know that they can do it and they are more than capable of getting a job in this industry.”

The company has also noted a rise in the number of females in the 800+ applications they receive every year.

Alisha, an auto electrical apprentice, said: “I was lucky enough that my school offered a GCSE in engineering.

"It was actually my mam who persuaded me to try it.

"I also took dance as another option, which you would class as a completely opposing subject.

"I loved them both.

"Just because you enjoy one thing doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy something else.

“One thing I’ve had to compete against is my strength and my height because I’m quite small, but everyone, including Caterpillar and the college, is so mindful of giving me training that suits me and they have taught me a number of different techniques to work around that.

"So, if you think something is a barrier, you are supported with that barrier and able to get over it in ways that would never have crossed my mind."

Chelsea Parker, learning and HR advisor for Caterpillar, said: “Hartlepool College of Further Education has worked really hard to ensure that our courses are completely bespoke to our apprentices needs and a lot of effort has been made to support each individual at its facility.

"I don’t feel like our apprenticeship programme is ordinary because we go above and beyond with our enrichment activity.

"We encourage our apprentices to go out into the community and undertake a lot of social responsibilities.

“Every single one of our apprentices gets a mentor within the company and we have developed role-specific rotational programmes, so everyone gets a chance to understand our product entirely, supporting the apprentices in becoming experts in their roles.

“Especially over the past few years, there has been an increase in females entering into science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) careers.

"The workplace is evolving and I think this is really exciting.

“We will always recruit the right person for the right job regardless of their gender, however, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of apprenticeship applications we receive from female candidates.

"I believe this is a direct result of the activity we complete to encourage females into STEM occupations”.