Last year Amy Rush won second place at Wales Skills 2013 beating more than 30 men from all over the country in complex mechanical challenges. She was 19 at the time.
Amy is from Cambria in Wales and she started her City & Guilds apprenticeship in motor vehicle maintenance and repair three years ago as one of just a handful of females on her course. A year later she was the only female left to continue her Level 2 qualification. She is also part of the conspicuous minority in a male-dominated industry whilst working at N&P Autos, her father’s garage.
Amy takes on the guys
Spotting a special mechanical talent Amy’s City & Guilds tutor encouraged her to enter the Wales Skills Show which then lead to the WorldSkills Team GB heats.
“It’s really rare to have any women at all in the competitions” says Amy.
“My tutors told me that no girls have got as far as I have before, but that has just made me push harder because I feel like I’ve got something to prove now.”
Amy won second place at Wales Skills 2013 beating more than 30 men from all over the country in complex challenges that involved fixing electrical and mechanical motor systems and building gear boxes.
She then went on to win her heat at the selection round for WorldSkills UK competitions held at Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) in Warwick, leading to a nomination for a City & Guilds Medal for Excellence and a place in the pre-selection team for WorldSkills Brazil 2015.
“It was a shock to win but I’m glad I was able to prove that I’m good at what I do, and to be recognised by such an industry leader like JLR was great” says Amy whose achievements are spoken of highly at her college, Coleg Cambria, where just 5 per cent of learners on automotive courses are female.
“She wiped the floor with the competition this year” says Marshall Clayton, Deputy Director of Engineering.
“She really is something special and it’s her determination that has blown everybody away. She passed her driving test a couple of days after turning 17 and just months later she passed her HGV licence – now she’s working on huge, complex vehicles. Amy is an inspiration to girls her age. Engineering is always perceived to be a male-dominated industry, but Amy is up there with the best.”
What’s stopping girls from following Amy?
Leading research and vocational education bodies believe that the image of the industry is stopping young women from entering the sector and then sticking with it once they’ve begun courses. A recent survey by Autocar found that just 3.5% of female students would consider a career in the automotive industry; this copares unfavourably with other industries.
David Stewart is Head of Automotive Engineering at Perth College in Scotland, where research is looking into the poor take-up levels of females into these courses.
“Employers’ perceptions of females are not what they should be, and we see the same story again and again of young women not finding the jobs they want after completing their courses,” he says.
There’s a gender bias too. Stewart has found that local employers reject apprentices on the basis of their sex. In the last three years just one of their female graduates has gone on to work directly in the sector.
“We managed to get one employer to give a female motor body painter a placement after they refused to take her on full time because they believed she would disrupt the workplace environment,” he says.
“It was only afterwards that they realised how good she was at her job and took her on as a permanent employee.”
For Amy, she knows her father’s business gave her the opportunity to enter the industry without many of the disadvantages other females might encounter. ‘I can completely understand why some women are intimidated about even going for an interview at garages where they will be the only female on staff,’ she says. ‘I think that’s why so many of the girls I met during Level 1 of my apprenticeship dropped out or went to work behind desks in the warranty offices of garages, even though they have the basic training for the workshop.’
In the meantime, Amy says it’s all about young women having confidence and becoming skilled.
“My advice is just to go for it; get skilled and get working as soon as you can. Once you can prove what you can do, you’ll have the confidence to counter any negativity and the ability to back it up.”
“A City & Guilds apprenticeship was definitely the way forward as it gave me the training and self-belief I needed to cope with pressure, try harder and prove to everyone I’m good at my job.”
On behalf of FOXY Lady Drivers everywhere we’ll have everything crossed for Amy in Worldskills Brazil 2015. You’re a winner in our book already but oh how magnificent it would be to pull off a BIG PRIZE on behalf of women in the motor industry everywhere.