Hey, I’m Rachel, 34, from Stockport, and I joined Cadent on an apprenticeship in September 2017.
To be honest, I completely fell into the role and never planned on being a gas engineer but it was one of the few things that happened in that 12 months that changed my life.
I always grew up wanting to be a vet, as I am probably one of the biggest animal lovers, but then I realised I’m also too emotional to deal with the sad side of it so that was a no go.
Then I went for my second passion: psychology. I did a BSc in Psychology and then didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do with my life and ended up working my way up to management in a call centre – and hated it!
So, I started looking for new roles (still clueless for direction mind!) and got sent this link for the apprenticeship by my sister (she worked in the Comms team at the time). I thought: why not!
I’ve always been pretty good at DIY with my dad (Mr DIY) training me from a young age, and it’d be a great opportunity to put my people skills and psychology degree into use.
I was a bit worried as a woman going into such a male dominated world but then I’ve never been one to say no to a challenge!
2017 was also the year my personal life took a massive shift as I came out of an eight-year-long relationship that was extremely unhealthy and I took the opportunity to take this apprenticeship as a new lease of life.
Then, in January 2018, I met my now fiancée Sarah and we are due to get married on April 15 this year. She supported me through the apprenticeship and it was fab knowing that I had someone so amazing by my side who understood the work and dedication it took to get not only through the apprenticeship (it’s no joke) but come out as a confident and capable FCO [emergency gas engineer] at the end of it; going on to win the Equality Engineering National Apprentice of the Year in 2020.
It was amazing to be recognised by such an establishment that sees that equality in engineering needs to be recognised, but I have to say the lads on my apprenticeship course (even though I did mother them quite a bit), trainers and assessors, and now my colleagues on my patch couldn’t have been more inclusive of me not only as a female but also as a gay woman and I don’t think I’ve ever felt like I was treated differently because of who I am.
If anything, it’s like I’ve found my role and I feel I can truly be who I want and need to be and there is no pretence which is refreshing and unusual for a work environment.
The apprenticeship gave me the opportunity to have a complete U-turn in my life at a really pivotal moment and I will always be grateful to my sister for sending me that link and for the apprenticeship scheme for helping me rebuild my life and help me become the strong, confident, capable, chatty (sometimes too chatty), proud, soon to be married woman that I am.