British Gas engineer Natalie Foster, 34, thought she was born to love a career working in restaurants and bars – until she realised she’d lost touch with the parts of the job she once enjoyed.
After completing her A-Levels, Natalie first tried university before going into the hospitality industry and eventually making a career of it by securing a series of bar manager roles.
She said: “The two things that attracted me to the bar and restaurant trade were meeting new people, and getting stuck in to the hands-on work. The more I moved into management, the less I found I was doing these things.
"I always wanted to do something I could feel proud of and which makes people happy, not just stare at a computer all day. The British Gas apprenticeship really appealed to me.
Natalie carried out her apprenticeship at the British Gas Academy in Dartford, Kent, just 15 miles from her home town of Orpington.
Reflecting on her time there, she said: “The course was just as challenging, interesting and rewarding as I had hoped and I’m now fully qualified, working as an engineer in/ around my home town.
“I love going into people’s homes and fixing their boilers for them – it gives you an amazing sense of job satisfaction. I also help people understand about ways they can control their energy using Hive Active Heating™, which allows customers to manage heating and hot water using a smart device.
“Being an engineer, it is a largely male environment and I was a little apprehensive going in. I was the only woman in my class on the course, but I found that I fit in perfectly. It’s the same today; I get on well with the rest of the engineers and even the customers who are a bit surprised initially seeing me on the doorstep are so welcoming!!
Natalie is keen to see more women in STEM; she said: “The whole experience was very liberating, as back in school I remember being steered away from the science and technology subjects because I was a girl. I think times have changed since then and people have realised that there’s absolutely no reason that women can’t do technical jobs.
“Personally, I love to see women on television or in the media in very practical roles and I’d love to inspire young women not to be afraid to follow their passions, even if it takes them into a traditionally male-dominated field.”