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Three apprentices at the University of Sheffield AMRC Training Centre have become the first all-female cohort to undertake a composite apprenticeship. 

Jasmine Ralfs, Grace Walbeoffe and Catherine Meech are training for an advanced level composites technician apprenticeship. The three students are based at the McLaren Technology Centre headquarters in Woking, the home of McLaren Racing, while undertaking hybrid learning with the AMRC Training Centre – the first training provider in South Yorkshire to deliver the composite apprenticeship. 

To celebrate this year’s International Women in Engineering Day, the three engineers in the making have taken time out from the fast lane to describe their apprenticeship training, day-to-day tasks, their favourite project to date and how they manage workloads in a high-pressure environment.

When asked about how their apprenticeship journey is going at the AMRC Training Centre, Catherine, Grace and Jasmine all echoed an agreeing response.

The three said how ‘having their theory work with the AMRC Training Centre, alongside practical work has really helped to gain a deeper understanding of the processes used day-to-day.’

They added that they have also ‘greatly benefited the other way round, as everyday practical work has helped better the understanding of the theories used within our coursework.’

Expanding on their work at McLaren Racing’s Composites facility (MRC), the three apprentices have been working across a number of different areas in composites, including laminating, trimming and assembling parts for McLaren’s F1 cars. 

Grace said that the trio are learning to lay-up, cure and trim carbon fibre parts at MRC, adding: “This involves us learning new skills and working with different types of materials and tools. 

“The parts we make can range from bigger parts such as the chassis or gear box that take more time to make, to smaller parts such as brackets or sensor covers that can be quite quick and easy to do.”

Jasmine added that a typical day for her in laminating can vary depending on the job needed, but said that once they have the moulds and material kit, they begin cutting and laying up carbon into the moulds and vacuum bagging the parts for debulks and cures in the autoclaves. 

When asked about their favourite project so far, one particular project stood out for all of them, working on the web structure for the chassis as an apprentice group.

“This project was very rewarding as no-one has ever seen through the entire job and it came out really well and so we were very proud of ourselves,” said Jasmine. “ It will be nice to see it on the car.”

Grace added: “I enjoyed making the rohacells, which is the foam structure we use to help shape the composites. Although at times it was quite difficult, to then putting them together to make the rows of the web structure and finally putting the rows together to make the complete thing. It was nice to see the whole process of it.”

Working for McLaren Racing can make for a high-pressure environment, both Catherine and Jasmine have shared a little insight into what keeps them calm when the pressure is on.

“It’s good to be able to get outside for a run or walk, even if it’s only short,” Catherine said. 

Jasmine added: “I enjoy decompressing on a break by playing a game of ping pong and then I can come back to the job with a fresh mindset.”

When asked about the best advice they have been given for dealing with stress and to unwind, Jasmine, Catherine and Grace all had some nuggets of advice to share that we could all take on board. 

“Don’t stress over something you can’t change or something that hasn’t happened yet,” said Grace. “Cross that bridge when you come to it.

Jasmine added: “All you can do is work hard, I try my best and then enjoy the results,” while Catherine said: “Don’t spend so long worrying about where everyone else is in life, find out what works best for you.” 

If Jasmine, Catherine and Grace have inspired you to learn more about an apprenticeship, visit: https://amrctraining.co.uk/apprenticeships.