A trailblazing female INEOS shift manager is encouraging more women to consider the engineering as a viable career – 30 years after she began hers.
On the eve of International Women in Engineering Day on Sunday 23 June, Lorraine Black (47) looks back with great fondness to August 1989, when she started studying at the then Falkirk College of Technology (now Forth Valley College) as a Process Apprentice, employed by BP based at Grangemouth – as one of the first five female apprentice engineers to enter the industry.
She spent four years learning her trade as a Process Apprentice, two years as a Process Operator and is currently in charge of 17 staff in her role as Shift Manager Olefines and Polymers, INEOS – this includes Kirstyn Suttie, a hotside panel technician and a previous FVC Modern Apprentice.
Lorraine, said: “I used to get the comments such as ‘you are doing a man out of a job’ and ‘you should be in the kitchen’, but I was quite thick skinned then and it made me more determined to succeed. I was able to prove myself and gain the respect of my male colleagues, who after a while accepted me as a fellow professional.
“I am delighted that it really has changed since then and more and more females are entering the industry – which is great. I know INEOS are great in this respect and I have been happy to help promote this. I think the perception is that you need to be big and strong to be an engineer, but you need to use your brain and intelligence more.
“My advice to any women thinking about a career in engineering is not to be put off by the perception that it is male dominated, give it a try and show that you can do a good job and you will be surprised at how much you will enjoy it.
“I was one of the first group of females who entered the industry 30 years ago and I have enjoyed every minute. It really has given me a good quality of life for myself and my family. It is worth it.”
Reminiscing about her time at the then Falkirk College of Technology, Lorraine, said: “I loved studying at the college. I remember really good lecturers such as Dr Cox and Bill Harper and I got a distinction in my HNC, which was probably down to them.
“The college route has definitely helped me progress in my career and has really benefited me. Obviously you have to put in a good bit of effort as well though.
“I would recommend the apprenticeship route through college as it is certainly a good stepping stone and you get to see what the course is all about while working and earning at the same time. You get to make loads of new friends as well. Having a HNC or HND is something to fall back on and you could even progress on to university too.”