International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) 2021 is all about Engineering Heroes.

We have more than our fair share in the north east. Let’s hear from a panel of key worker women on how they have responded to the pandemic and supported our lives and livelihoods. Some of our everyday heroes have been very visible whilst some are hidden heroes.

Meet our Panellists

COURTNEY IRELAND, Trainee Assistant Engineer Operations, EDF Energy

I started off my foray into engineering when beginning an apprenticeship at Heysham 1 Nuclear Power Station, I had recently completed my A Levels in the sciences and was keen to continue on in STEM as it was what I was really interested in, but I wasn’t too sure that going to University full time was where I really wanted to be, which pushed me towards the hands-on learning that you get as an apprentice. I ended up specialising in the maintenance of the control and instrumentation systems on site during this apprenticeship, and I also gained a HNC in Electrical Engineering as part of the training. After I passed out of my time I was eager to keep on learning, so I pushed myself forward and started a BEng with the Open University which I am still continuing part time whilst working. I eventually moved on to Hartlepool Nuclear Power Station, where until a couple of months ago I continued working as a maintenance technician. During the pandemic this job role was essential for keeping the power station online and generating electricity for the country, as without regular maintenance of the plant the station would have had to shut down, leaving the national grid with a ~1200MW deficit to make up! I have recently moved on into training to become a reactor operator, where once I have passed through an intensive teaching program I will be looking after one of the two nuclear reactors at Hartlepool every shift, ensuring that all monitored parameters stay within the safety constraints and exercising control over the plant evolutions precisely. My career has been relatively short, having only been working in the industry for 7 years now, but through pushing myself further and out of my comfort zone, I’ve managed to end up in my dream job, where fortunately I am one of the lucky women who gets to come home from work happy every day (or night!). My motivation for wanting to keep moving myself forward in the industry comes from seeing the other women before me pave the way in a male dominated workplace whilst encouraging me to follow them, and now I want to do the same for the next generation of girls who are starting to consider what they want their career to be.

JOANNE ROBERTS, Transport Strategy & Road Safety Manager, Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council

Joanne is a Chartered Engineer with over 25 years highway and transport experience. Leading Stockton Borough Council’s Road Safety Team, ensuring that the statutory duty to investigate accidents is carried out along with managing education campaigns.

Also leading Transport Strategy including managing traffic models that are used to support development control and also used to support the development of the Council’s Local Plan as well as identifying highway infrastructure that can be delivered through various funding opportunities.