TWO FEMALE engineers working for Airbus are encouraging young women to follow a career path into the industry.

The Leader spoke to Devon Sumner, Head of Operations for A330 Wing Assembly and Equipping at the Airbus Broughton plant, and Victoria Searle, who last year finished the Undergraduate Apprentice programme in Aeronautical Engineering with Airbus.

For both, the path into engineering had a few turns.

Devon said: “I didn’t initially directly go into engineering. I always enjoyed maths and science at school - and my maths teacher had told me that I may enjoy a career in engineering. But at the time I didn’t know if that was something for me.

“So initially I did end up going to university to study product design. I didn’t particularly enjoy the first year, except the fact that quite a few of my modules mirrored the engineering course.

The Leader: Higher Apprentice of the Year finalist Devon Sumner, Airbus in the UK, BroughtonHigher Apprentice of the Year finalist Devon Sumner, Airbus in the UK, Broughton

“My mum suggested that I consider an apprenticeship at Airbus. I went on the website and the following weekend there was an apprentice open day at the A380 factory which I attended.

Devon said it “absolutely felt like the right fit” and that ever since that day she has “never looked back”.

“The apprenticeships at Airbus are in high demand,” she said. “It was quite a rigorous interview process and you could see how they’d tailored the recruitment process to ensure people had the right skills for the role.

“But if it’s something you love, it doesn’t feel like work - and it means you give the best version of yourself.”

After completing a three-year apprenticeship, Devon has worked for Airbus ever since and is now in her 12th year there.

When she started, Devon admits she was in a minority as a female engineer.

“When I went to the open day, I was one of a handful of women there - and there were significant numbers of people there,” she said.

“But as I’ve progressed through my career and I see more of the early careers teams coming through there’s a lot more diversity across the board. Year on year I can see us moving in the right direction which is great.

“We’re getting greater representation through all parts of the company so people can look up to the likes of myself and Victoria and picture themselves in those roles. I think that’s really important.”


She added: “There’s so many things I love about my job; the fact I get to work in a field that I’m passionate about, especially when you see the aircraft we build at the airport, or you get to fly on a plane which had its wings built by us in Broughton.

“It feels like a real family environment here, along the way I’ve not just had great colleagues but made life-long friends. This career gives me the opportunity to be challenged and it’s so diverse - the opportunity to expand your career here is endless.”

Victoria Searle, a current Industrial Engineer with Airbus, said: “I’d managed to convince myself in year 13 at school that I wanted to go into a career in medicine - despite a little voice in my head saying there’s much more out there I hadn’t considered. But there are external factors that tell you if you have certain grades in certain subjects, you should go into certain careers.

“So despite having a place at medical school, I took a year out. I knew I loved maths and physics and wanted to give myself a chance to look at alternative careers without those external pressures, this for me was engineering.”

The Leader: AirbusAirbus

She spent a year out doing some work experience in the field and decided it was the career path she wanted to follow. Victoria applied and got into the apprenticeship programme with Airbus.

Victoria had just finished her three-year Undergraduate Apprentice in Aeronautical Engineering with Airbus.

“You spend one day a week at university,” she said. “And in your first year you learn about the tools, technology and hand-skills used within the factory.”

“The rest of the apprenticeship is spent moving around various engineering placements within manufacturing, design and quality engineering.”

A now qualified engineer, Victoria is urging other females not to miss out on a career in the industry, if it is something they’re interested in.

“I never originally considered engineering. My school didn’t tell me about apprenticeship opportunities, and nobody in my family had completed one. It was only when I took the year out I realised what I actually wanted to do.

“It’s a degree that’s paid for, you’re getting paid, three years of valuable industry experience in a job that I want - it was a no brainer. Degrees and university were always seen as the way to go, and I had to realise how amazing apprenticeships are.”

The Leader: Vic Searle Image: AirbusVic Searle Image: Airbus

Asking which skills you need to go down the apprentice path, Victoria encourages prospective apprentices to be open-minded and to throw themselves into it.

“You’ll meet so many people and learn so much,” she said.

“Don’t worry if you think you can’t do certain things - you’re not supposed to know, that’s the whole point of being an apprentice. But equally, if you know something isn’t right, don’t be afraid to raise the question.”

Victoria added: “If an apprenticeship is on the cards - and you want to do it, do it.

“It will open so many more doors…more than you think. I love how the attitudes towards apprenticeships are changing. I can’t recommend them enough.”

All the facts and figures

Broughton site is the biggest of the 11 Airbus Plants (Plants and FAL’s are different)

• Still a record today: In June 1943 the Broughton team built a Wellington Bomber from start to finish in under 24 hours
• A total of 5,540 Wellington bombers were built in total
• More than half of the aircraft assemblers during the war were female
• After the second world war, the Broughton site lent a hand in building aluminium prefabricated housing to support a national shortage of houses. A total of 11.250 were built.
• The first Airbus wings were delivered to the Final Assembly Line in Toulouse, from Broughton on November 23, 1971
• The Broughton site officially became an Airbus Plant on March 31, 2000
• The BelugaST first took to the skies in September 1994

Broughton site today
• The site sits on an impressive 700 acre footprint
• The runway at Broughton measures over 2km, coming in at 2,043 metres in total
• 25 million aircraft parts are delivered to the site every year (and increasing)
• More than 500 Beluga movements in 2022
• Airbus supports more than 11,000 jobs in Wales - with more than half of those jobs sustained at Broughton
• An A320 family aircraft takes off or lands every two seconds. All of those wings were built in Broughton
• The Broughton Plant is the biggest manufacturing site in Wales
• More than £2 billion has been invested in the site since 2000
• Ground was first broke on the Broughton factory on December 14, 1938 before opening in 1939.