In anticipation of Apprenticeship Week (February 3 to 7), in-Cumbria meets up with rising star Jade Hughes to learn about her story so far and plans for the future.

Jade Hughes, 19, of Broughton, near Cockermouth, is an instrumentation apprentice at TSP Engineering in Workington.

She was recently highly commended in the Rising Star category of the national Make UK Awards.

She began work at the Derwent Howe-based TSP Engineering in 2017.

Following gaining GCSEs at Cockermouth School, she decided to follow in her brother Brad’s footsteps and go down the apprenticeship route.

Brad completed his apprenticeship in 2017.

Jade said: “I would hear how much variation his days would hold, how much independence and respect he was gaining, and how he had the opportunity to gain work experience improving his employability for the future – which all appealed to me.

“I have always been one to challenge and push myself, so an apprenticeship always seemed like the best option, allowing my current skills to be developed whilst learning new ones from the more experienced workers around me.

“The element of working while learning, from both an educational and personal perspective, were also important to me.

“An apprenticeship allows me to gain experience of both the job role and a working environment. So far, this has allowed my knowledge to improve, my understanding of what it means to be both part of a team and to be independent in my tasks, as well as giving me the confidence to trust in my ability.

“My main aim and ambition has always been to work in the manufacturing industry.

“I love being busy and to be faced with challenges resulting in me having to find smarter ways of working. The manufacturing industry provides me with this.

“Secondly is the scale of manufacturing in Cumbria. It is the largest sector of the Cumbrian economy leading to the county being home to some of the most specialist and innovative manufacturing firms in the UK, so where better to learn and start a career?”

Jade said every day was different at TSP, as they often had more than 30 projects from several companies underway on the shopfloor at any one time.

She adds: “This means my days are constantly changing and jobs can vary from PAT testing to working on large high-profile complex projects for nuclear clients.”

Jade began work as a 17-year-old and was the only female alongside 120 male workers.

She says: “TSP Engineering is a male-dominated environment, full of workers who are much older than me, much more experienced than me, and probably much more confident than me - I’d be fibbing if I said I wasn’t nervous!

“Although, women in engineering are becoming more popular, we’re still a minority, so I had prepared myself for this before deciding to pursue a career in the sector. I was worried I wouldn’t be taken seriously, or people would assume I wouldn’t want to get stuck in or ‘break a nail’. Being an apprentice, and a female one at that, I knew I was going to have to prove myself to some extent.”

She was nominated for the Rising Star Award, given to apprentices who have seized training and development opportunities, made significant contributions to support the activities of their employer.

Jade says: “I couldn’t believe I’d been shortlisted. It felt amazing, it felt great to be appreciated by my employer.

“When I was highly commended, again I couldn’t believe it. I felt so lucky to be nominated, never mind being shortlisted and attending a fancy ceremony surrounded by industry experts and manufacturing leaders in Manchester, so hearing my name being called for highly commended felt incredible.

There was never supposed to be a highly commended in my category however, the judges said after reading all the things I had achieved and interviewing me they had to award me with something – in a way this made it even more special! Who would have thought a young girl from a small town in Cumbria would have impressed a bunch of manufacturing experts so much they had to create an award for her?”