In honour of International Women’s Day 2021, and to embrace this year’s theme of #ChooseToChallenge, we caught up with Lara Pitcaithly, a second year Process Technician in the Oil and Gas Apprenticeship Programme (OGTAP).
Lara completed her HNC at NESCOL, Aberdeen, and is currently in the final few stages of the college phase where she is undertaking additional skills training, before starting her worksite placement.
In the Q&A below, Lara gives us an insight into her experience as a female apprentice in a traditionally male-dominated workforce, as well as sharing her thoughts on the drive towards challenging the norms in order to attract more women to roles in the energy industry.
What inspired you to apply to the OGTAP scheme?
When I was thinking about what I wanted to do after school, the idea of going to university didn’t appeal to me. I knew what I wanted to do and when the opportunity to apply for the OGTAP scheme came up I thought it was the perfect way to start my career journey without having to get a degree.
What has been the best element of your apprenticeship so far?
For me, the most enjoyable aspect so far has been the high level of practical training we’ve been given. The hands-on experience definitely gives more of an insight into the work you’ll actually be doing when you go on-site.
Has there been any part of the apprenticeship you have found particularly challenging or surprising?
There’s been nothing I’ve found overly challenging from the programme so far.
Most recently, I would say the main challenge has been adapting to a new way of working (and learning) during the COVID-19 pandemic, to be able to complete the college section of the training. The college has been really supportive though and we’ve managed to adapt to digital learning, where necessary. I’m currently undertaking practical training with ASET, NESCOL’s practical partner, full-time now that my HNC is complete. Prior to this my classes were split between ASET and college.
How do you feel an apprenticeship prepares you for working in the wider industry, for example, in the oil and gas industry, but also potentially moving into renewables?
The apprenticeship has definitely given me more of an insight into what to expect from a career in this field. If I’d gone to university, I wouldn’t have gained the same level of practical training and so I definitely feel more prepared.
The OGTAP scheme has provided me with the theory I need to know, but also the practical training. It gives me a real sense of satistfaction knowing that I’ll be starting my career with the knowledge I need to succeed.
Whilst the training I’ve undertaken has focused mainly on the oil and gas sector, it has definitely equipped me to work across the wider energy mix if needed. Throughout the energy transition, there will always be a need for control rooms, computer systems and the people who monitor them, making the skills that I’ve learned fully transferable across the energy industry.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of applying?
I would say go for it and consider this as a real option!
It’s one of the best ways of getting into the industry as employers are always looking for people with experience who have an understanding of the role expectations, rather than just a qualification.
When I was at school, most people believed that university was the only way to go, with apprenticeships seen as an option for those who struggled academically.
This is not the case at all, in fact it’s the complete opposite.
If this is the career path you want to follow, an apprenticeship is definitely the best route to take.
We’re also living in a time where there is a real push for more female apprentices in the industry. It’s no longer frowned upon or seen as a ‘man’s job’– I have never had anyone question my ability or ask why I do what I do and I’m really excited to take my next step.