Danielle Flynn, degree apprentice, explains how she found her passion for engineering and gave up a space at university for her apprenticeship with Jaguar Land Rover. She has recently become one of the Top 50 Women in Engineering, awarded to her by The Women’s Engineering Society. We spoke to her about her experiences, her ambition and goals for the future. Keep reading to find out how she got here.
How did you go about getting your role at Jaguar Land Rover?
When studying my A Levels, I began to search for potential further education routes that would spark my interest. Like most, I applied for University and thought this would be the safe and sensible option for gaining a good job. Engineering was a bit of a risk for me. My favourite subjects in school were Maths, Physics and Chemistry however I didn’t think just one would make me happy. I never knew any women wanting to pursue a career in engineering, but I thought I would look into it, considering it was a combination of all the subjects I enjoyed in school. If I didn’t try, I wouldn’t be where I am now.
After applying to University, just by chance, I noticed an advert online for the apprenticeships at Jaguar Land Rover. I couldn’t believe that an apprenticeship with such good qualifications, experience and pay existed – this is one of the main reasons I am so passionate about spreading the word today! The application deadline was coming around quick, so I went for it.
After the initial application, two online tests and one tough assessment day – I was thrilled to gain a place. I had no experience in Engineering when applying to Jaguar Land Rover, but I am hard working and willing. Having confidence in yourself to believe you can achieve above and beyond, can get you far.
I happily rejected my place at University and started at JLR in September 2015. Currently, I work in the Body Shop in the Standards and Controls department. Here, we focus on maintaining one standard across all the factories, research and introduce new technologies, manage the controls system in the Body Shop and ensure the plant is safe to run. I’m really enjoying my time here and look forward to what the future may bring.
How has your experience been so far?
My experience has been truly amazing. I was the only woman in my year group, so I knew I wanted to help voice women in STEM. Women in engineering were not spoken about in my school, I didn’t know of any female engineers and didn’t consider the career myself until I found this apprenticeship.
I went out my way to visit schools across the Merseyside region, leading Engineering workshops, presentations and activities. From here, my involvement escalated to public speaking at high profile events, being the guest speaker for business networking sessions, participating in live debates on the radio, speaking on TV for ITV and the BBC.
I am now in a position where I am being contacted regularly to attend events, schools and Universities to help speak up for women in Engineering. Recently, I was recognised as Liverpool’s Apprentice of the year and was ranked in the Top 50 Women in Engineering 2019.
Additionally, working with professionals daily since I was 18 has been incredible. I have had discussions about ‘missing out on the Uni life’ and ‘working with older people’ but it has not bothered me at all! Having that attention and support from professionals only makes you get better quicker. I feel I am valued and looked upon as an Engineer not as a trainee apprentice Engineer. I am given responsibilities and feel self-satisfied from the contribution I give as an apprentice.
Why were you were chosen as one of the Top 50 women in engineering?
I was honoured to be nominated for the Top 50 Women in Engineering because of my outstanding contribution to JLR projects as well as my work for women in STEM. A colleague put me forward for it and I was overwhelmed to be selected! It was a fantastic day! We went to the Royal Academy of Engineering for the collection of our award and an afternoon tea!
How has Jaguar helped you build on your passion for engineering?
Jaguar Land Rover are a great company to work for. They have done nothing but offer support and want me to be the best that I can be. In addition to JLR funding my HNC qualification, NVQ Level 2, NVQ Level 4 and a degree from Warwick University, they fund any course you would like to further progress yourself. Whether that be project management and leadership or a skill-specific course, they are a great help.
My degree, fully funded by Jaguar Land Rover, is in Applied Engineering. As a student of Warwick University, I have full access to the latest technology and engineering facilities, allowing personal research and trials to take place. Jaguar pride themselves on making the best Engineers and I felt that from the day I started working there.
What would you say to young people looking into an apprentice scheme?
Go for it! When I was in school, apprenticeships were not encouraged or spoken about. University was always highly encouraged, but it’s great to have options for people that don’t want to go down that path. What apprenticeships offer nowadays is truly outstanding. I do not regret a single day. I am gaining experience from professionals daily and working my way through a free degree from one of the UK’s top universities.
Gaining work experience whilst completing a degree puts you miles ahead. It sets you up for the future and opens so many doors. My bit of advice would be to be confident and be proud. You get out of something what you put in. It doesn’t matter if you’re wrong or make mistakes. The slight hiccups along the way are all part of the journey to make you the best possible version of yourself. You’ll never know unless you try.
Where do you see your career going in the future?
I am so excited to see where my future takes me. I am very happy working for Jaguar Land Rover, and I hope to be able to move to a higher position sometime in the future. But you never know what life may throw at you and what opportunities may be around the corner. I think it is so important to keep an open mind and enjoy every minute of your career!
What is one of your greatest achievements within engineering?
I am proud to be a part of a team that introduce new technologies into the business that offer great cost savings by reducing production time and reducing time spent fixing issues. Such implementations give great self-satisfaction and self-worth, knowing that as an apprentice, my contribution can mean so much.
Additionally, from my knowledge gained in Engineering, I have created simplified Engineering days for school children to teach and educate them on different types of Engineering and lean production through fun games and activities. Every complicated and difficult issue can be broken down into simple steps and the ‘difficulty’ disappears! Breaking down the barrier of ‘hard’ subjects and showing people that it is in fact a lot of easy steps to reach that place, I believe, will introduce more students to STEM subjects.
What made you become a STEM Ambassador?
Being the only female in my year group when I started Jaguar Land Rover, I knew I had to make a change. Due to my sheer lack of knowledge on Engineering before starting the apprenticeship and the fact that it wasn’t mentioned in school as an option, I knew people needed to be more educated on the breadth of the career path and more importantly, have female role models, doing the job, preaching about their successes and hoping other girls want to be like them.
During my 4 years as a STEM Ambassador so far, I have noticed girls change their minds. I find this is because I relate engineering to things they enjoy, e.g. Instagram. Showing them how they can work for big companies and become successful through Engineering excites them and encourages them to keep Engineering as an option.
What advice would you give to any budding engineers?
Go for it and grab every opportunity with both hands. It is such an exciting time to join the career with new projects happening all the time. You will gain so much from it when you give it your all - I honestly have never looked back. Girls do not be afraid of engineering being a male-dominated pathway. We need to work together to make the change! And on the plus side, it gives you an advantage as you are memorable! Engineering is a fantastic career and is different every single day.