Thursday, 5 October 2017

A Female First at Beaulieu!

The automotive world is a very male-orientated one, and as a woman working within industry, the following story was a great one to come across! The first ever female workshop apprentice has been appointed at the National Motor Museum. For more on this fascinating story, I'll hand over to the people from Beaulieu to tell you all about it.

The National Motor Museum at Beaulieu has appointed a new workshop apprentice as an investment in the future of its historic vehicle collection at a time when few specialist workshops are taking on trainees. The National Motor Museum was founded in 1972, and has a policy of keeping its vehicle collection in the best condition to preserve them, which means that many exhibits are in roadworthy condition and are used throughout the year.

New apprentice Emily Leese, aged 18, joins the museum's experienced workshop team to help maintain and restore its collection of more than 250 historic vehicles. A young woman in an industry traditionally dominated by older men, Emily's training will help to keep alive the essential skills needed to look after and preserve the museum's remarkable machines.

When she completes her apprenticeship, Emily will become the first to do so since Museum Manager and Chief Engineer Doug Hill finished his apprenticeship 40 years ago.

Classic car fanatic Emily, who has been a volunteer at the National Motor Museum since the age of 14, is starting a four-year apprenticeship, which is being generously funded by a small group of Beaulieu One Hundred members. The Beaulieu One Hundred membership is committed to supporting the work of the National Motor Museum Trust to preserve Britain's motoring heritage for future generations.

Emily's training will be overseen by apprenticeship provider Heritage Skills Academy, which specialises in enabling trainees to work towards industry-standard qualifications as part of its Heritage Engineering Apprenticeships programme, tailored to the specialist automotive restoration industry. 
Further to gaining the vital hands-on experience in the workshop, Emily will also study the skills of the trade with Rolls-Royce and Bentley specialist P&A Wood in Essex, working towards her Level 2 and 3 Diplomas in Classic Vehicle Restoration. Her training will be funded by the Automotive Apprentice Bursary awarded by the Worshipful Company of Coachmakers and Coach Harness Makers of London, a charitable association which promotes excellence in the automotive, aerospace and rail industries.
Draper Tools has generously donated a comprehensive tool kit and chest to Emily from its Draper Expert range, which will be indispensable to her over the course of her apprenticeship.

National Motor Museum Manager and Chief Engineer Doug Hill [editor's note: Interesting Fact! Doug Hill
is the son of Veloce author, the late Ken Hill] said: "Ever since Emily first visited us for work experience four years ago, I have been impressed by her enthusiasm and determination. I was the last apprentice to complete my training here at the National Motor Museum 40 years ago, so it makes me exceptionally proud to offer this opportunity to a new recruit by employing Emily as our apprentice in the workshop. We can make a huge step forward in ensuring our legacy of knowledge is safe for the future."

Motor Museum Trust Chief Executive and Beaulieu Managing Director Russell Bowman said: "We are delighted to welcome Emily to the workshop. In her previous role as a volunteer, she has already proven herself to be a very dedicated and hard-working team member. By learning specialist maintenance and restoration skills from our experienced engineers, she will be helping to safeguard the museum's vehicle collection. We wish her a very long and happy career at Beaulieu."

By assisting and learning from the museum's experienced team of five workshop engineers, Emily will help to maintain and repair a staggering variety of vehicles including prestigious veteran cars, classic racers, luxury limousines, vintage motorcycles, Land Speed Record-breakers and even the famous Beaulieu Monorail.

Emily said: "At school, I chose to study Design Technology Resistant Materials rather than, say, cookery. I was the only girl on the course. Then when I finished school I found the Motor Vehicle Engineering course at Sparsholt College, which gave me a direction to go in although I was one of only two women on the course. My friends aren't into cars but they think my career path is pretty cool.
"It's good fun being in the workshop. Fixing things is my passion. I get involved in whatever projects are being worked on. Recently, I helped to re-fit the engine to our 1930 'Blower' Bentley, helping to steady the engine and to line everything up."

After spending the day working on old machinery, Emily drives home in her own modern classic, a Rover 100 – the later incarnation of the successful Austin Metro. Her true motoring passion lies with the legendary Morris Minor. "Years ago, I saw one and thought 'that's a really nice car'. Then I saw how easy they are to work on and I thought I'd like one of those." When space allows, her plan is to one day have her own Minor to restore. 

Emily is adamant that maintaining and restoring historic vehicles is a viable career. "I don't know what the future of the classic car movement will be or what will be considered a classic in years to come but with so much going on in the workshop all the time, I'm hoping to stay here at Beaulieu for a long time. However, I would like to see more youngsters given the same opportunity that I have."

Emily is launching a blog to follow her apprenticeship. To read the first post with a Q&A with Emily, see

And there you have it! What an amazing – and progressive – step for not only the classic car industry, but for the working climate as a whole. I personally wish Emily all the best in what is set to be a very interesting and rewarding career path! – Siân

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