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Young Apprentice of the year says parents are the key to the next generation of women scientists

WISE Role Models at the Big Bang Fair

Anna Shaw: “Get parents on board. They need careers advice just as much as teachers and pupils.”

16 March 2015

Photo: Anna Shaw, centre, with WISE role models at the Big Bang Fair, Birmingham, 13 March 2015

“When I was younger I had no idea of what I wanted to do – and neither did my parents. I got 11 good GCSEs then left school and got a job. My parents knew I wasn’t fulfilling my potential but felt helpless to point me in the right direction.”

Anna Shaw was the 2014 WISE Apprentice of the Year and works for GlaxoSmithKline in Cumbria. It’s what she describes as her ‘dream job’ and she’s the only female science apprentice at that site.

Her parents are delighted that she’s found a job she loves but wish they had been able to help her more when she left school.

“When you see your daughter struggling to find the right career you feel helpless. Parents and teachers need educated about careers choices – and particularly science opportunities for girls so they can help their children. Like so many parents we didn’t know about apprenticeships – let alone apprenticeships for women in science related jobs.”

Anna has always been grateful for the support her parent’s gave her as she tried to find the right job but in the end she found her apprenticeship herself quite by chance when she was browsing the internet. “I hadn’t really heard of GSK before or what they did, Having done a little bit of research into the company, I got a feel for the work they do and how they help people and I just thought to myself ‘this is it’.”

Anna Shaw inspiring girls at the Big Bang Fair

Anna Shaw inspiring girls at the Big Bang Fair

These workshops at the Big Bang Fair were run as part of the WISE Scientific Apprenticeships Project. As part of this project, Cogent are working in partnership with WISE to deliver diversity events that will bring together school girls, parents and industry, in order to increase the number of girls entering STEM via scientific apprenticeships. This includes discovery workshops held throughout the UK, Employer training and Open Days.

Girls had the opportunity to explore opportunities in science based roles by meeting and engaging with inspirational role models from the industry. The girls who attended found “Listening to people talk about what it's like to work in different job areas - specifically women working in science – inspiring and encouraging”.

Anna chose the apprenticeship because she loves being able to work and learn at the same time. “I’ve always enjoyed this method of learning as I’m a very hands-on type of person and prefer to physically learn the skills whilst getting the technical knowledge as well, which is why the apprenticeship scheme was perfect for me.”

“I’m now proud to say that I work in the Main Chemical Laboratory at the GSK Ulverston site, testing raw materials, and manufactured ingredients for their colour, purity, impurities, sodium content, - just to name a few - using state of the art equipment. I am also studying a distance-learning degree at Manchester Metropolitan University where I learn my technical knowledge that I can then apply to my work role. I am one of only two girls in my year on my course – not a brilliant number but one that again reflects the deficit of females in the industry. This was one of the initial moments that got me thinking about why we have this gap and what I can do to help bring more females into the industry."

Anna is now a STEM Ambassador and says “I would urge anyone interested in STEM careers or anyone who just has that little bit of curiosity, to go along to any careers convention or science fair and speak to the people in the industry. Ask questions. Ask them why they chose their job. Ask them what they love about their job. They will tell you first hand what you can expect and why they enjoy it so much."

Her other piece of advice – get parents on board. They need careers advice just as much as teachers and pupils.

Watch the video of Anna Shaw talking about her role as a laboratory apprentice and STEM ambassador at GSK’s Ulverston Factory in Cumbria.

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