Name: Abigail Stansfield
Skill: CNC Milling
Employer: BAE Systems
Each of us has our preferred method of learning and Abigail Stansfield was sure what would work best for her. “Personally, I found that doing an apprenticeship was the best path for me to take, because I’m a person who likes to learn practically, meaning that I like to try things out as I learn them. I loved the fact that I would be earning whilst working towards my qualifications.”
Although much is being done to attract women into STEM careers Abigail thinks we’re just starting to make headway. “Through doing an apprenticeship in engineering, I realised that I was in a very small percentage, being female. I don't see this as a challenge though, I see myself as equal to all the other people in my apprenticeship. I think it’s great that the number of females in STEM subjects is increasing, hopefully soon there will be a more equal split between genders.”
Abigail first heard about WorldSkills UK Competitions by helping out at a stand BAE had at the National Finals held at WorldSkills UK LIVE. “I looked at the people competing and I wanted to achieve what they had. So from then on, I set it as my goal to compete nationally for CNC Milling. However, now reaching Squad UK I can't wait for the possible opportunity to compete internationally.”
First competing in November 2018 She achieved Highly Commended status and in 2019 topped this by securing a Bronze Medal. Abigail feels she has developed her skills, “I love to see how far I have come, it means that all the hard work and training I have done is working. It makes me feel proud of myself that a task I used to struggle to complete, I can now do in half the time and with so much more confidence in myself. WorldSkills UK Competitions have taught me to be proud of the journey I have completed. I have a new-found confidence in my skill, which directly links to my day-to-day job.”
Asked what advice she would give to a young person thinking of entering WorldSkills UK Competitions Abigail says, “I would definitely say to grab the opportunity, you would be silly to miss out on the aspects that WorldSkills UK has to offer.”
The biggest challenge for Abigail was not the actual competing but the Covid-19 pandemic. “Being trapped at home not being able to see loved ones has a negative impact on your mental health and impacts your motivation for training. However, due to not being able to go on training trips, we have managed to complete so much more training than we had planned for. This is all because of video calling and being able to share screens to work through any problems we might be facing. Even after lockdown I think we will continue to work like this, as we have all progressed massively.
My favourite part has been bettering myself in my skill, this has grown my confidence massively in both WorldSkills Competitions aspects and my work.” It is these employability skills that underpin technical skills that employers value so much. “Through taking part in WorldSkills competitions, I have been asked at work to complete interviews and have now got a few photos of myself around site. This will be great for my future career prospects, through the positivity WorldSkills UK has added.”
Abigail is absolutely thrilled to be selected for Team UK, “I can’t put it into words about how I feel about getting to this stage, but maybe one word – ecstatic! I’m looking forward to competing for myself, for the company, for the country, to working hard and hopefully getting back with a medal.”
Asked how she thinks being part of Team UK and competing internationally will aid in developing her skills Abigail says, “I think it will help endlessly, building on the skills I’ve learned through competition and also the personal skills I’ve developed.” Her colleagues are very supportive of her efforts, “They’re all proud of me because of how far I’ve got.”
Andy MacDonald, Tooling Supervisor at Bae Systems High Tech Task Force division sees very clearly the benefits of Abi’s competition experience coming back into the workplace. “Abi’s time competing in the WorldSkills UK Competitions has really helped to develop her CNC programming and machining skills, accelerating her integration into a highly skilled team within a high-tech tooling facility. She now has the respect of her peers and the trust of the leadership team to perform at a level not usually seen from someone so early into their career.
“I believe Abi’s competition experience with WorldSkills UK has given her the confidence to explore bold and innovative solutions which she then applies to her day-to-day work. This ability to challenge the norm is something we value at Bae Systems and is helping to drive our industry forward well into the future.”
Thinking about her career plan Abigail says, “Although I enjoy the workshop floor, after gaining skills and experience I want to make my way up the company ladder. In this role I hope to be highlighting to the younger generation the positives of being involved with WorldSkills UK.”
Asked what she would want educators, parents or the government to change to engage more people into apprenticeships and technical education Abigail wants to see a more level playing field, “To push apprenticeships and technical education as much as they push A-Levels and the typical more 'academic' route. Everyone learns differently and it is important not to waste anyone's talents.”