Re-skilled for engineering aged 37
Delphine Ryan MRAeS discusses her career journey from retail to engineering, and demystifies what being an engineer is really like.
Had someone told me a few years ago that in my late 30s and with no formal secondary school education I would step up from supermarket sales assistant on minimum wage to qualified engineer working in military and commercial aviation and projects such as submarine manufacturing, I would have never believed them. Yet, this is exactly what happened.
In my youth, I loved aircraft and space exploration, and thought of becoming an engineer. But I married young and had children young and although I have always been quite confident in myself, I genuinely thought that, having no school qualifications, I would not be able to become an engineer in later life. I pushed the idea out of mind and decided to simply concentrate on raising my children as well as I could and be a good mum. I loved being a mum!
However, a few years ago I discovered I had been misinformed. There are in fact amazing opportunities for adults to study and work professionally in engineering even if lacking formal qualifications, as gaps in knowledge and skills can be filled. This is exactly what I did by studying a foundation course followed by a degree in aircraft maintenance engineering and graduating at 37!
There is a significant shortage of engineers in the UK, and only 8% of the engineering workforce are women. I firmly believe this shortage can be solved by women and men of all ages right here in this country.
There exists a common idea that engineers are people who wear a boiler suit with a hard hat and carry a tool box. This couldn’t be further from reality. While some engineers may be kitted up that way for a specific job or activity, it only represents one small aspect of the engineering profession.
So what is an engineer really?
An engineer is a person trained to put scientific knowledge to practical use. The word comes from the Latin word ingenium, which means ‘genius, invention’. Look around you to see all that is created by humans in the arts, the sciences and everyday living: all the product of thinking men and women.
If you are creative and like to solve problems, then an engineering career may be for you. Be persistent, be willing to learn and work, and ignore people who might put you down or cast doubt in your mind. Age, gender or race has very little to do with a person’s ability to think, to solve problems and to create.
Getting in touch
If you would like more information, to request materials or book a 1-2-1 appointment or on-campus workshop, please contact the Royal Aeronautical Society Careers team.
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