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Jennifer sets her career fizzing with Coca Cola apprenticeship

Apprenticeships Youth employment

As an engineering apprentice, Jennifer Kolonko, the first female engineer at the Coca-Cola Europacific Partners (CCEP) site in East Kilbride, swapped being a personal trainer to pursue her passion for engineering.

She's also committed to increasing diversity in the male-dominated engineering industry. Jennifer, 29 who lives in Hamilton, started her Level 6 Modern Apprenticeship with the world's largest independent Coca-Cola bottler in August 2017 and completed it in April 2021. Jennifer initially studied health and fitness but decided on a career change inspired by her dad.

She said: “I decided to look down the apprenticeship route. Growing up I always had a hobby of re-building cars with my dad so always had a love of engineering and applied for the CCEP Modern Apprenticeship after seeing it online.”

Jennifer had a big impact on CCEP's performance and sustainability credentials as a Modern Apprentice.

Her achievements have been recognised at the Scottish Apprenticeship Awards, where she won the Modern Apprentice Level 6+ category, sponsored by the Young Person’s Guarantee, as well as the overall Apprentice of the Year title.

Cocacola Jennifer Kolonko 067
Growing up I always had a hobby of re-building cars with my dad so always loved engineering.

Jennifer Kolonko

Sharon Blyfield, Head of Early Careers at Coca-Cola Europacific Partners, said: “During her apprenticeship, Jennifer played a vital role in leading a project to improve mechanical efficiency across the site on the Capri-Sun line.

"She spotted an opportunity to reduce the number of jams. She designed and implemented a system guide to support colleagues in establishing the quickest routes to resolve issues. It has drastically improved mechanical efficiency, reducing waste by 30 per cent and producing up to 10 per cent more product."

Jennifer said: “My Modern Apprenticeship has given me the knowledge of how to do things properly and better ways of problem solving and that's improved my confidence a lot.

“Through the apprenticeship you get to work with experienced engineers and they pass their knowledge onto you.”

As the first female engineer at the East Kilbride site, Jennifer is changing the narrative around engineering

Sharon Blyfield

Head of Early Careers at Coca-Cola Europacific Partners

Modern Apprenticeships are jobs open to anyone aged 16 and over who want to work, learn and earn. Apprentices spend most of their time learning in the workplace while being supported by a local college or specialist training provider to gain an industry recognised qualification.

Jennifer added: “The main benefit of the apprenticeship was the mixture between academic and hands-on experience. I had my own flat and it helped that I was getting a salary while still learning.

“I now have a new job as a senior technical operator on the Capri-Sun line, in charge of two production lines.

“We have three apprentices on site and I've been supporting them.

“I would definitely recommend apprenticeships and I'm excited to be a finalist at the Scottish Apprenticeship Awards.”

CCEP employs around 3,600 people in Great Britain and offers apprenticeships across a variety of sectors, including engineering, business administration, logistics, legal and field sales.

Sharon said: "As the first female engineer at the East Kilbride site, Jennifer is changing the narrative around engineering, an industry that has traditionally been dominated by men. She’s paving the way for future female engineers to follow in her footsteps as apprentices, volunteering to talk in schools and to young people in the community.

"She also accompanied senior members of staff at a Scottish Parliament open day to promote the importance of apprenticeships across Scotland. Jennifer is determined to go against the grain and break down the barriers that stop females from embarking on a career in engineering.

"As part of her role as a Just Be ambassador, an initiative which works to improve inclusion and diversity in the workplace, she has also raised awareness around the lack of facilities for those who identify as non-binary. She's working to help the business implement these changes."

Apprentices bring many benefits to CCEP

Sharon said: "Apprenticeships also deliver a great return on investment for the business.  So, while apprenticeships are about giving back and making sure we do our bit, it also makes good business sense."

Derek Brown, Training Advisor at learning provider East Kilbride & District Engineering Group Training Association, underlined the help available to employers and apprentices.

He said:  "Apprentices and employers are aware that they can contact EKGTA at any time during the course of the apprenticeship for help and support.”

Scottish Apprenticeship Awards

Read the full list of Scottish Apprenticeship Award winners here.