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Trailblazing apprentice Penny keeps it in the family

#ScotAppWeek24 Apprenticeships

A former St Peter the Apostle pupil is hoping to inspire more young women into engineering after a Foundation Apprenticeship helped her land her dream job. 

Engineering is a tradition in Penny Hay’s family and her pioneering aunt, STEM ambassador and engineer Sara Monaghan, inspired her to study science and maths, then work in the industry.  

Penny chose a Foundation Apprenticeship in civil engineering in her sixth year at school. It has given her a great start in her chosen career, helping her land a Modern Apprenticeship job. 

Penny stands smiling at camera, her long brown hair falling over her high vis jacket with a BAE Systems label. In the background is BAE Systems yard.

The 18-year-old said: “Apprenticeships give you such a good variety of experiences.  

“You don’t have to stay in one discipline, you can move about, you get put in different placements so you can see which part of the business you want to work in.” 

Foundation Apprenticeships provide school pupils with the skills employers need, offering industry insight to gain a work-based learning qualification at the same level as a Higher. 

A pilot programme of Foundation Apprenticeships at SCQF Levels 4 and 5 are for S3-S6 pupils. 

Penny was the first young woman to choose a Foundation Apprenticeship in civil engineering in West Dunbartonshire.  

She said: “At first I was unsure. I was not used to this. Then I realised, I’m going to be working in a male dominated environment so I’d better get used to this. That is just one of the reasons I am keen to do what I can to inspire other females to pursue engineering as a career.” 

And when the lads noticed that Penny was the smartest person in the room, she was soon voted team leader when they were set group tasks. 

Penny Hay and Steven Knox

Stephen Knox at Working4U, saw her in action in a classroom setting.  

He said: “Penny was a model pupil who actively pushed herself to gain as much knowledge as possible. She scored the highest marks in the class.  

“Penny showed keen interest in the practical elements. She was not fazed by being the only female in the group and used this to her advantage to give her additional drive to excel herself.” 

She was picked to spend a week with major construction company Kier, based in Clydebank where she lives. The company employs apprentices at every level.  

She recalled: “We got to see the architectural drawings and the manufacturing process.  I went round with the quantity surveyor, he talked me through what they do on the design side and how to read the drawings.” 

Penny impressed project manager Chris Wilson. He commented: “Penny showed a great keenness to learn, she was very inquisitive and showed great initiative. Penny was a pleasure to work with.” 

That time on site was a highlight of Penny’s Foundation Apprenticeship.  

She explained: “That hands-on experience helped me decide what do next. 

“The Foundation Apprenticeship developed my team working, communications and leadership skills, as well as boosting my confidence,  

“I came out of my shell a bit, I got my head down in school and kept myself to myself. But when we had to do projects and work in groups, I started putting my ideas out.  

“I was mostly the team leader because I was quite organised as well.” 

Moving on up

Having excelled in her Foundation Apprenticeship, Penny is building on these skills with a Modern Apprenticeship in naval shipbuilding with BAE Systems. She joins her aunt, uncles and cousins in the company. 

The skills she learned at Working4U and Kier have been a huge asset. “At college this year I’ve been able to develop some of the subjects I did last year. I started with a basic knowledge and that gave me a boost. I knew I had done this before and now I can build on it further.” 

With her family cheerleading her on her engineering career, Penny has big plans for the future. She said: “I hope to make my way up to specialise in detailed design, either electrical or mechanical.  

“I could work in Canada or Australia, I would be willing to go offshore and work for a few years. 

“I would encourage anyone to choose an engineering apprenticeship, it brings so many opportunities.”  

Find out more

The winner of the Foundation Apprentice category sponsored by BAE Systems will be revealed during Scottish Apprenticeship Week, which takes place from 4 to 8 March.

Opens in a new window Go to the awards website