Claire Nightingale joined TSP Projects as an apprentice five years ago and is now an Assistant Engineer designing over-head line equipment for the electrification of the railway. This project will revolutionise Britain’s railways allowing trains to run faster and with increased capacity.

She was recently named as the Runner Up in the Technician / Apprentice of the Year category of the 2018 Business Excellence Awards as an “excellent example of a young female professional who is prepared to go the extra mile, who wants to better herself for the benefit of herself, her colleagues and the business.”

She started her profession as a design technician using industry design tools.  CAD design work is still a large part of her role today, but she is now also involved in more complex aspects of design; including cross sections, layout plans and drawings.  To further her professional education Claire is currently studying towards a degree in Mechanical Engineering while working at TSP Projects four days a week.She has also recently received an EngTech qualification with the Institute of Mechanical Engineers.

Apprenticeships – an alternative route to success.

When Claire set out to achieve her goals not everything went to plan, but she found new opportunities through an apprenticeship, and hasn’t looked back since.

“I went to college to do A-levels with the hope to go to university because I wasn’t told anything different and didn’t know about other options.”

Claire was lucky that someone suggested apprenticeships as an option and she joined TSP Projects as a CAD technician working four days a week with one day at college. Assessments are coursework-based which allowed Claire to go from failing exams to getting top grades.

As someone who has experienced disappointment at the hands of exams and gone on to build a successful career in a very rewarding role, Claire has lots of encouragement for people who may be going through similar experiences.

“I genuinely thought it was the end of the world. But, there is always time to change and there are always different options. An apprenticeship was the best decision I ever made – it’s a completely different educational environment. Doing it this route you have the support of your team behind you and you’re not alone.

“I always say that getting rejected from university was probably the best thing that happened to me, career wise.”

A Career on Track

Rail engineering may not seem like an obvious choice for most, but Claire thought about the opportunity carefully.

“At first, I was interested solely in engineering and then I saw adverts for rail engineering and the more I thought about it…the rail industry is never going to go away, it’s there, it’s always going to be there and it’s always improving. It is also in just about every country of the world.”

Getting women and girls into engineering.

Claire is a STEM Ambassador at TSP Projects, and actively encourages children to take part in STEM related studies and careers through activity days and school visits

Through her work in schools one of Claire’s aims is to encourage more girls to look at engineering. When asked why she thinks there are fewer women in this industry, she suggests that stereotypes and misunderstandings have a huge influence.

“I think it has a lot to do with the stereotype about what engineering is. Design Engineers work in an office and wear smart clothes -a lot of engineering in our team is in our heads, in our minds and our knowledge.

“You have the calculations and design tools but then you have health and safety, report writing, and all the meetings. It’s such a broad area you can’t just do a drawing and send it – you have to do all the behind-the-scenes work as well.

“I love being able to see what I have done, for example the structure of the railway near London is contributing to the electrification of that area of the East Coast Mainline. I feel my biggest achievements are when I get to see what I have designed as a real structure. It’s real and I like that.”