Stay up to date
Keep up to date with our latest news and analysis by subscribing to our regular newsletter
February 8 2023
As part of National Apprenticeship Week, we’ve been catching up with some of our apprentices including Level 2 Rail Engineering Operative - Ellie Riley, to learn more about her experience so far! Ellie is currently 10 months into her apprenticeship, and we are thrilled with the progress she has made to date.
Q: TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF
I am from the North, I live with my dad, I am a ‘daddy’s girl’, my grandad lives nearby, and we have a close relationship, I have always been surrounded by men. I am happiest sitting at home in track pants gaming.
I didn’t fit in at school and I was bullied for being different. Most of the other girls in my class liked more traditional stereotypical girlie things but I was happiest outdoors, sleeves rolled up and getting muddy.
I tried to fit in by wearing make-up and tying my hair up in a ponytail, but it made me unhappy, I wanted to be my authentic self at school but had to pretend to be someone I was not. I was also trying to hide being gay, but now I am out and proud.
Q: DID YOU ENJOY STUDYING AT SCHOOL?
I believe myself to be smart, but I didn’t do well at school, I failed Maths and English. I hated learning and I did not like being stuck in a classroom. I like to learn from visuals or practical experiences and found school overwhelming. I believe I have undiagnosed autism; I have completed online tests at home which suggest I am autistic but have never spoken with the doctor. I can get anxious about social settings and at school, I would find it hard to understand what other children were thinking and feeling, so I would opt to stay home alone instead.
Q: WHAT CAREER DID YOU WANT TO PURSUE WHILST AT SCHOOL
Failing my academic examinations meant career opportunities were limited for me, thankfully my dad opened a business selling E-CIG/Vapes and asked me to work for him. I was a general assistant for four years, helping him ensure the business's smooth running. I enjoyed working with him and being part of a growing business but knew this was not my chosen career or line of work. My grandad worked in construction, and he always had work and a good income. The more thought I gave it the more I realised this type of role would be a great choice for me. To work outdoors not be tied to a desk would suit me perfectly.
Q: WHY DID YOU CHOOSE AN APPRENTICESHIP IN RAIL?
I felt it was time to do this and pushed myself allowing nothing to hold me back. I applied to work for telecommunications businesses fitting cables and for construction roles but had no response. I started to think maybe construction might be a ‘man’s sector’ after all and no place for me. Then I spotted a job advertisement by McGinley, they were asking women to apply, guaranteeing them an interview if interested. I joined one of the McGinley virtual information sessions to hear about their apprentice programme, I liked them, they were very genuine, and they gave us the full picture, warts, and all. I imagine lots of people were put off, but I was filled with excitement and could see myself building a career repairing rail tracks. 80% of the apprenticeship is on the job, my preferred way of learning. Doing this apprenticeship meant I would have an income; I would earn whilst I learn.
Q: HAVE YOU EVER FELT EXCLUDED FOR BEING A WOMAN AND/OR FOR BEING BI-SEXUAL?
I was nervous when I started and I was quite shy, but since the get-go everyone at McGinley made me feel included and I am far more confident in myself now than I ever was before.
Nobody treats me differently because I am a woman, I am treated as part of the team. I have never heard anyone say anything derogatory about me being bi-sexual. I do not have to hide my sexuality and I really can bring my whole self to work.
Q: WHAT DO YOU MOST ENJOY ABOUT THE APPRENTICESHIP? AND ARE THERE ANY CHALLENGES?
I am learning so much and building up my experience and tickets. McGinley has been great, any problems that have arisen they have solved straight away.
The only challenge is my height, being short can make things a little more difficult at times but I know my strength and I am always pushing myself.
My dad and my grandad are both very proud of me, they remind me that I am pathing the way for other women to work in this industry.
Q; WHAT NEXT?
I have spoken with my manager at McGinley about my aspirations and I want a career in S&T, signalling pays good money and I like the idea of one day moving to Canada or America.
Q: WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER WOMEN THINKING OF WORKING IN THIS INDUSTRY?
I didn’t imagine that one day I would be learning a trade in what’s considered a ‘male industry’, that I would be successful and working in a team that celebrates me for being me. Anything is possible, never stop with your dreams and be you. This industry offers flexible working and the chance to work shifts outside of the 9-5, and McGinley are accommodating in assigning you shifts that best suit you. It would be great to have more women working alongside me.