Today is the International Women in Engineering Day and as we celebrate this year’s theme of #EngineeringHeroes, we have reached out to one of our Advanced Therapies Apprenticeship Community (ATAC) apprentices, Izzy Sloan, to share her story on what it is like to be an engineer plus advice and guidance for students who are aspiring to be young engineers.



About Izzy Sloan

From a young age, Izzy has always aspired to pursue a career that will not only develop her knowledge and skills, but also make a positive impact to the lives of people and help build a better future. However, she was unsure of the available career opportunities that will help her achieve these aspirations.

Keen to kick-start her career whilst following her passion in Maths, Chemistry and Geography, Izzy discovered the Chemical Engineer Degree Apprenticeship at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).


Lack of exposure in engineering

At first, Chemical Engineering did not seem like the obvious career option for her as she had very little knowledge about what engineering really was. Historically, engineering, in people’s mind meant building bridges and houses, greasy engines and motors with males mostly dominating the industry, and Izzy was among the wider population who had very few exposures to what ‘engineering’ really is. It was only when she had her on-the-job experience that she realised there is much more to Chemical Engineering than working in a lab on chemistry experiments, it actually also entails upscaling these experiments to manufacture products on a large scale and what components are needed for this to ensure safety, quality and efficiency (piping components, blenders, process safety considerations, heat transfer systems, storage and valves).

“I had never thought about Chemical Engineering as an option for me, especially through an apprenticeship. I feel this route was, and still is, underrepresented throughout school.”

Building a professional career for women in engineering

The Advanced Therapies Apprenticeship Community (ATAC) is working with the industry to train and upskill individuals to develop, manufacture and deliver advanced therapies at scale.

ATAC equips apprentices with the right knowledge and skills to help them pursue their career aspirations as unique as they are, and ultimately undertake world-leading research to offer the promise of treating and altering the courses of diseases.

Working in partnership with industry, training providers and employers across the UK, ATAC offers complementary learning activities such as webinars, networking events, site visits and Q&A sessions with industry experts and fellow apprentices. This creates a collaborative environment for apprentices to gain exposures across the wider advanced therapy industry, paving the way for more innovation, more diversity of thought and more engagement across borders and communities, and helping them realise their full potential.

Joining the apprenticeship programme has helped Izzy to build the foundation of her knowledge in engineering by gaining practical laboratory experience whilst working on obtaining an accredited BEng Hons Chemical Engineering degree within four years.

“Since beginning my apprenticeship, I have been involved in an array of tasks ranging from derouging chemical clean designing to barrier safety studies – things that I had no idea about, but already within my first year I am familiar with and even adding value to improvements around these which contribute to the overall business goals.

My role revolves around using mathematics, physics and chemistry principles to resolve problems relating to the production of specific antibiotics, along with using innovation to improve these production processes.”


Reshaping the future by promoting equality of opportunity for women in engineering

By working in partnership with training providers, organisations, and the wider advanced therapy industry ATAC is able to foster an engaging, agile, accessible, and collaborative environment and most importantly setting a new standard for female inclusion.

Established in 2018, ATAC has now expanded to 143 apprentices, of whom 40% are women (including 50% of our engineering cohort), across 39 UK companies. ATAC also continues to work in partnership with accredited training providers to strengthen the apprentices’ occupational competence, with 10 programmes available from entry-levels to Master’s degree equivalent apprenticeships.

Izzy commented:

“I am only just starting out my engineering journey, but I am already picking up the knowledge and skills to facilitate this aspiration. Once I have finished my apprenticeship, I look forward to becoming chartered and moving into a career further down the country or even abroad; wherever opportunities prevail themselves.

My message to everyone is to be informed about all your options. Only then will you be able to make an informed decision as to what career is right for you. Chemical Engineering has already opened so many doors for me; become informed and find out if you think it will do the same for you.”