Jan Ward CBE, formerly a teenage mother with no qualifications and now Chair of Energy & Utility Skills Group and CEO of her own international engineering business, has lent her inspirational voice to encourage females to consider roles in engineering.
What do you do?
I am the chair of Energy & Utility Skills, the organisation that is behind Talent Source Network. I am also the founder and CEO of Corrotherm International, supplying high-grade metals, based in Southampton.
You’re not an apprentice then?
No, but I was once looking for an opportunity and an apprenticeship would have helped! I left school early as I became pregnant in my teens. At that point I had no qualifications, no job and no chance of getting decent work and building a career for myself.
So how did you end up in the position you’re in now?
When I was 19, I went on a government scheme for the unemployed, and took an evening course on international trade. Next I got a job in telesales with an export company in Southampton. I worked while studying the next part of the course and towards a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering in 1984.
No disrespect, but that was a long time ago …
It was! When I was a teenager there were no role models in society or business that I could aspire to, but I found inspiration in my own family. My oldest sister was a lorry driver. My mother worked in factories during World War II. I saw that work was something everyone did. It didn’t matter what the work was or whether the workers were women. I suppose that impacted me without me realising.
“I am in a great position to help make a difference in our sector which is vital for the United Kingdom. I was once in need of inspiration.”
Were you always an engineer then?
Maybe! At school, I wanted to do metalwork. As a child, I made a go-cart out of a dustbin and pram wheels using my dad’s tools. I didn’t want to do cookery at school as girls were supposed to. I was cooking all the time at home!
What else have you done?
Quite a lot to be honest! Being awarded an honorary Doctorate in Engineering by Southampton Solent University in 2015 is one of my proudest moments! Since 2002, I have acted in advisory capacities to various Government departments. In 2014 I received a CBE for services to business and was named the Institute of Directors’ Global Director of the Year. I am still CEO at Corrotherm 25 years after I founded it.
What do you like the most about your role and why is it important?
Working in energy and utilities helps provide vital services – and many career-opportunities in a fast-paced technology driven environment. I took on the role chair of Energy & Utility Skills to let people know about the many career opportunities in energy and utilities. I am in a great position to help make a difference in our sector which is vital for the future of all four nations in the United Kingdom. I was once in need of inspiration.
Why should roles in engineering or energy and utilities be considered?
Engineering roles can sometimes be seen as manual, but they are so varied. I hope more girls and women bring their talents to these roles. There are so many opportunities in the energy and utilities sector and Talent Source Network is a great initiative to help you find them.
What would you say to someone feeling demotivated and looking for a new career opportunity?
I want everyone who feels demotivated to understand what’s causing it, recognise you can achieve and not to turn down an opportunity – because that opportunity may offer more than you think and could have the potential to change your life and the lives of those around you.