Site search
Skills & careers
Back to listing

Apprentice: Jessica Monk


Jessica Monk

Current job

Apprentice machinist at MRC Harwell

Key quote

“People said to me “girls don’t do engineering” so I considered doing an NVQ in health and social care. I’m so glad I pursued engineering. I’m the only woman in the workshop but no one treats me any differently.”

Length of career

One year

Career in brief

I’ve been interested in engineering since I was little. My grandparents lived on a smallholding and I’d spend my summer holidays there helping my grandpa while he fixed machinery, and designed and made his own equipment for jobs such as feeding the animals. After secondary school I went to college to do a BTEC Level 2 Diploma in Engineering. This involved doing work experience in a few companies, exploring different areas of engineering such as mechanics and machining. I’m now doing a four-year advanced apprenticeship to get my Level 3 NVQ in Engineering.

I spend my days

No two days are the same! When scientists want something made or fixed, we do that for them in the workshop. We make things like work stations for animal research, magnets for microscopes, and housing for equipment. We’ll discuss ideas to come up with something they like the sound of and then make it. I spend a lot of time on lathes or mills machining things up, or making drawings. Everything we make is bespoke ― we don’t often make the same thing twice.

I really enjoying knowing that I’m contributing to research, and I also really like the satisfaction of making things and seeing the finished product. Sometimes we go to the labs to see what’s required, but I spend most of my time in the workshop. As part of my NVQ I complete logbooks and reports on what I’m producing too. I also make some products to test my skills for my NVQ ― for example, I recently made a ‘3 sister engine’ to test my machining skills.

Career highlights

I’m pretty pleased with the 3 sister engine. I really like the feeling once you’ve made something ― you’ve helped the scientists and you’ve done a good job of it.

Biggest challenges

When you’re designing or making something, there’s always a problem you’ve got to overcome. But that is the nature of the work.

Skills I need to do my job

Good maths skills are crucial, as well as skills such as problem solving and time management ― I’m in charge of deciding how much time to put into jobs and prioritising them. You also need communication skills because you’re talking to a lot of people about projects.

I am inspired by

Everyone I work with in the workshop. Everyone has their own specialism and I’m learning from each of them. If I can be like any of them further along in my career, I’ll be happy.

Words of wisdom

Think about what route you want to take. There’s a massive variety of work in engineering: machining, fabrication, electronics etc. It’s important to know that there are lots of options, and explore which one you might be best suited to.

Next steps

I’d like to stay here in the workshop. In fact, I think I’d stay here for the rest of my career if I could! If the opportunity comes up I’d like to be a workshop manager one day.

Further information

Network article on workshops which features Jess (p11)

Correct as of: March 2015