06 April 2022

Vicki Connor: ‘engineering has great opportunities’

Communications Lead for Sellafield’s Women in Operational Technology Group provides insight into how the group is inspiring more females to develop a career in engineering.


By Jessica Leary, Westlakes Recruit

As part of the Central Maintenance Delivery Team within the Operational Technology Group, Vicki Connor has worked within the nuclear industry at Sellafield Ltd for over 20 years.


Vicki has been part of the Women in Operational Technology Group (WOT), formerly Women in Control Systems Group (WICS), for two years, where she is currently the Communications Lead.


When was the Women in Operational Technology Group founded and what was the inspiration to begin the group?


The WOT Group was founded in January 2020, just before the start of the global pandemic. The group was launched after we gave feedback to Team Managers that there was a low female representation in the department at Team Leader level and above.


There was a need to recruit more females, to achieve a more inclusive and gender balanced workforce.


What does your personal role consist of within the group?


In my engineer role, I maintain the cyber security systems in the department, this involves anti-virus updates, system downloads, patching, and updates on backup systems. I have been a STEM Ambassador for over 10 years and part of the One NDA Gender Balance Group in the outreach team.


My role within the WOT Group is Communications Lead. I set up inspirational talks and upskilling sessions for the group, I am secretary for the monthly meetings, and I manage the social media platforms that we have as a group. I also produce any news articles or write ups that we have to communicate out to the wider audience.


As a group we have produced barrier posters and choose to challenge cards that have been used on our social media sites as an inspirational tool.


How would you describe your engineering career journey, and what is the most memorable part of your career so far?


Engineering has great opportunities, I have been involved in commissioning testing for a new secure engineering system.


I was part of the team that implemented the roll out of the go-to machines across the Sellafield site. I never followed the apprenticeship route, I just learned on the job and gained experience through shadowing other team members.


I am part of the IET (Institute of Engineering and Technology) and have gained my ICT Tech accreditation, and I am currently working towards my IEng qualification. 


The most memorable part of my career has been being involved in the WOT Vision presentation in Westminster, London. This was presented to senior members of the NDA and WiN (Women in Nuclear) UK.


This was setting out our mission for a more inclusive and gender balanced workforce in engineering.  


The Nuclear Sector Deal sets out an ambition to increase the representation of women in the nuclear sector to 40% of the total workforce by 2030, how can the WOT group help achieve this?


Part of our recruitment strategy is developing and delivering STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) workshops in primary schools to try and promote STEM subjects to more females. We are also involved at a secondary school level with career events and recruitment fairs to promote more females into a career in engineering. Our development strategy also looks at developing and the retention of women in the department currently, through leadership development opportunities and secondments to gain experience in other STEM disciplines.


What advice would you give people who are eager to start an engineering role in nuclear?


Get involved in after school technology-based clubs like the Lego League.


This is excellent for understanding STEM and you can apply skills in an exciting competition, while gaining confidence and team building skills along the way.


Pick STEM subjects when deciding on option choices, this will be an advantage when applying for university and apprenticeship schemes.


We also run an Operational Technology Degree Apprenticeship Scheme, which is five years in total, where you will gain a Degree in Plant Engineering. The entry requirements for this are passes in at least five GCSEs, and a minimum of 96 UCAS points at A Level. 


Where can people go to find out more about the group?


We will be attending career fairs and recruitment events throughout the year, please look out for us!!


We also have an Instagram page - WICS2021

Twitter page - @sellafieldWICS



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