Three women at MINI Plant Oxford have been named among the top-100 female ‘Rising Stars’ of the UK automotive industry.
Helen Evans, Amy Druce and Annie Sekulla (pictured) secured national recognition as part of Autocar magazine’s ‘Great British Women in the Car Industry’ initiative.
The aim of the programme, run by Autocar in partnership with the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), is to identify and promote the automotive sector’s most promising female rising stars and highlight the career opportunities for them.
The top-100 were selected from a range of different areas in the industry including vehicle development, manufacturing, purchasing, retail, marketing, communications, apprentices, human resources and design.
The news comes as applications for BMW Group’s ‘Girls Go Technical’ scheme – for females considering a technical apprenticeship within the manufacturing industry – opens for placements during the UK October half-term.
Helen Evans made the switch from politics and international relations, which she studied at Oxford Brookes University, to a career in engineering after joining the BMW Group Apprenticeship scheme shortly after graduating in 2015.
Now, as she studies for a BSc in Mechanical Engineering, Helen is a popular and talented engineering technician in the Plant Oxford apprentice team. Her current department is responsible for organising the implementation of new parts and vehicles into the plant.
“My time at MINI has furthered my passion for cars and I am now certain that I want to build a rewarding career in the automotive sector,” said Helen. “I’ve also become very interested in playing my part in helping to encourage and inspire other young women to consider careers in this industry. There aren’t enough of us at present, but in time and with schemes like Great British Women, I think attitudes will change and we’ll see more females progressing to senior level roles.”
Amy, who joined the MINI assembly line in 2003 progressed up the ranks to become the first female Lead Associate. She is now a Process Leader responsible for MINI underbody, exhaust front end fit and other engine bay components and oversees a team of more than 40 associates day to day. She is passionate about developing her skills and is currently enrolled on BMW’s ‘ProLead’ (leadership & management) initiative.
“For me, job satisfaction is walking out at the end of a shift knowing I have done the best I can do and seeing the output that’s been achieved from my area of the line,” she said. “Personally, I like to think that being a female is no bar to having a successful career in this industry. Initiatives like this are vital though, if we’re to successfully encourage more women into manufacturing and engineering.”
Annie Sekulla joined the plant as an apprentice in 2008 and since then has gained a BSc in Electric Engineering. Today she works as a Dimensional Control Analyst in the Metrology team, undertaking detailed measurements of everything from finished vehicles to a single part from a car.
“I actually find it a great experience being a woman working in the car manufacturing industry,” said Annie. “It’s important not to get too hung up on gender when considering what you want to do when you’re starting out in life – what matters most is whether you have the skills and the drive to do the job.”
Frank Bachmann, MINI Plant Oxford Managing Director, said: “I’m incredibly proud on behalf of the whole MINI Plant Oxford team to see Amy, Annie and Helen making this prestigious industry list. It’s a fantastic honour for them and I know they all have extremely bright futures ahead of them.”
BMW Group UK is passionate about getting more females into the industry. As well as apprenticeship opportunities, each year the company runs a unique scheme for young women to get the chance to follow MINI production from body panels and engine building, to a completed car rolling off the line as part of its ‘Girls Go Technical’ programme.
The programme is an exciting opportunity for young women aged 15-24 to experience the day to day challenges encountered by our engineers and technical apprentices in our state-of-the-art plants in Oxford, Swindon and Hams Hall.
Four days are spent at the heart of our manufacturing operations to gain an in-depth awareness of manufacturing and engineering processes, an insight into the range of careers available, including technical roles, as well as the chance to enhance interview and job application skills.