Madi Woollard joined ISIS in September 2020 as an apprentice in the Mechanical Workshop. After studying machining at college, she initially went into music, getting a Level 3 performance and production qualification before deciding to pursue her engineering career. Unlike the usual apprenticeship structure that includes a rotation around different teams, Madi will be based in the workshop throughout her apprenticeship. “I really like this structure as it means I get to know my team a lot better, and allows me to really get stuck in to the jobs I'm working on," she says.
Despite the pandemic causing the college days of her apprenticeship to be put on hold for 3 months, the on-site work has been going ahead as planned. “My time has been split between training jobs that I can use to learn new skills, and working on jobs that are needed for ISIS work. It's not repetitive; all the jobs are new and interesting."
Three of the other apprentices on the scheme are also based at RAL. “We get along well and help each other out. Although we all have some background knowledge, there are some areas that are new to all of us, and it's good to talk to each other to work our way through."
The skills she's using weren't necessarily the ones she was expecting. “I've been surprised at how much maths is needed for my role; my friends joke about how I've found the only job that requires trigonometry! You also need to be a really hands-on person. Even though we're using machines, they don't do it all for you and you need to be keen to get stuck in. It's also really important to be patient, and not be too hard on yourself when things go wrong."
When she was looking at apprenticeships, she was warned that it was a very male-dominated environment. “It was a bit daunting to be told this. Not because of being treated badly, but in case people would tip-toe around me, which is something I really wanted to avoid. Also, in school, people would make comments saying we would only get accepted onto a scheme because we were 'a girl', which is another thing I didn't want to be known for, or for people to think."
However, she's learnt that at ISIS “it's not a problem at all. I'm not treated any differently and I think it's a really great working environment for anyone to be in."
“The stereotype of being an apprentice and being given all the awful jobs no-one wants is definitely not the case here either. In fact, it's almost the opposite! My colleagues will approach me if there is a particularly interesting job to do, or if there is a task where I'll be able to learn a new skill."