A Passion for Engineering – Simisola Onalaja
“I always strive to be the best I can in whatever I do. I feel like I am part of a movement.”
Simisola (Simi) Onalaja, Business Ambassador for Women and Graduate Process Engineers with ENGIE Fabricom pursued a graduate route into the engineering construction industry.
Simi studied Chemical Process Engineering at Surrey University and joined ENGIE Fabricom in 2011 on the graduate scheme. She commenced her rotational programme in nuclear and then moved in her second year to a BP Chemical site in Saltend.
“There are three reasons I wanted to pursue engineering as a career,” said Simi, a very talented and highly focused graduate, “passion, diversity and longevity.” Like many fellow engineers, she was from an early age, “curious” and interested in “making things,” and pursued that interest and passion into her degree subject and subsequent career. In making her choices Simi also felt that engineering represented a genuine long-term career path and contained all of the variety she was looking for in a career.
Simi had role models in her family too – her father and brother are engineers and they are always supportive. Whilst she recognises the many obstacles that women face in trying to pursue careers often seen as “unsuitable” for women, Simi did not feel those pressures too much. On her degree course she was one of six women, and her experience is that they were treated with respect and acknowledged as fellow engineers.
Simi now works as a Process Engineer on a major chemical plant in Yorkshire, as part of a team seeing designs through to commissioning. She clearly loves her work, which she says is “dynamic” and full of variety. Simi has a strong belief that “people make work what it is,” and that surrounding oneself with like-minded people is important. Her matter of fact attitude on the issue of gender diversity is clear. Women should not “limit themselves,” says Simi. They need to “go for it” as she did.
Simi’s goal is to achieve Chartered Engineer status and her route to this will be supported by the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB) and other training and support provided by her employer, ENGIE Fabricom.
Yvonne Day, Resources & Development Director of ENGIE Fabricom, herself a passionate champion of women in engineering said of Simi:
“Simi is a great role model for other women looking to develop a career in engineering. At ENGIE Fabricom we have a mentoring scheme and Simi is already helping to inspire Chelsea Griffin, our recent award winning welding technician. Simi is an extremely focused person and I am sure that she will make a great success of her career in engineering construction.”Simisola Onalaja
“True Grit” – Chelsea Griffin, case study in steely determination
“I wanted a better career for myself and to support my five year old son. I did face obstacles. I had to do it all myself. I took myself back to CATCH, the unique training centre with ENGIE Fabricom, to train as a Welding Technician and did it through the ECITB. It shouldn’t be like this but as a female you do have to work harder. I am proud of what I have achieved, I have a great supervisor and mentor and work for a great employer now. I hope it will inspire my son when he is grown up.”
When Chelsea Griffin, a Welding Technician received the trophy for ‘Apprentice Engineering Technician of the Year′ at the ENGIE Fabricom Apprentice and Technician Recognition Awards, little did she imagine, she was making history as the first female to win this prestigious award since its inception in 2006.
Chelsea’s achievement in her career to date is even greater considering the many hurdles and obstacles she faced on her journey to her dream job as a Welding Technician.
Chelsea’s story began after she left school. Deciding to return to college to re-sit her math’s exams (a pre-requisite for her desired craft profession), she already knew that as a single mother, with a five year old child, everything would be just that bit harder. What she did not expect was how much harder, facing as she did a marked lack of encouragement and even active discouragement for her choice in pursuing an engineering career path.
Chelsea recounts: “At school and college they did not see females as part of engineering. I had no role models and until I started working no one was supporting me.”
Still despite this, Chelsea ploughed on and succeeded in getting her grades in 2013 at Grimsby Institute.
“I knew I wanted a better career,” she said, “one that was more physical and hands-on.”
Whilst at college she spotted what turned out to be the perfect opportunity for her, and joined leading Engineering and Project Management firm ENGIE Fabricom as a welding apprentice. As a female in a predominantly male working environment, she did face additional obstacles that her male counterparts simply did not have to contend with. Chelsea recalls facing prejudice from “the blokes on the shop floor,” creating additional pressures to “prove myself,” and believes that there is a “mindset” in engineering which needs to change.
Now in her third year and months away from completion of her apprenticeship, Chelsea can now see the road through much more clearly.
“They [ENGIE Fabricom] provided me with a mentor and a sponsor to guide and train me, and with the additional support of the Resource Development Team I have been able to progress and achieve my goal”.
She clearly loves her job working as part of a team, and is currently engaged in pipework and fabrication modules on oil refineries in the Humber region. Chelsea has a steely determination to succeed and her advice to other women is “go for it” and “be brave and bold.”
Yvonne Day, Resources & Development Director of ENGIE Fabricom, herself a passionate champion of women in engineering said of Chelsea’s recognition last year in her award:
“Chelsea is a worthy winner, who shows a pride, commitment and professionalism in everything she does and this whole event shows how our continued investment in training young people pays off.”
“We need a new generation of talent entering the world of engineering and construction, and we are committed to making sure young people today get the opportunities they need to realise their full potential.”Chelsea Griffin