Eye-opener for a quick-thinker

Jenna Mihsein stands out in a smartly pressed suit, with a distinctive voice that rises above the hustle of her fellow students.

She is one of 17 teenagers getting an up-close and personal taste of engineering at National Grid’s work experience academy in Hinckley, Leicestershire.

The sixth former said: “I was always told that few girls go into engineering, so I felt a bit nervous beforehand. Early in the week I was the only one who got a quiz question right though, so they definitely listened to me more after that.”

It is hard to imagine that this enthusiastic teenager could have been nervous about the placement at all, but she added: “I really didn’t know what to expect. My mum works for National Grid and was giving me advice and said my mentors would be watching my every move, but it’s more relaxed here than she made out.”

Jenna has just finished her AS levels at Dixie Grammar School in Market Harborough and was encouraged to apply after showing a flair for STEM subjects.

“Since I finished my exams, I’ve been thinking about my career options, so the broad range of classes I took opened a lot of doors for me,” she said.

“My mum knew I loved design and technology, where I got the chance to take a concept, idea or creation, break it down and explain how and why it works. My teacher was really supportive and said I should look into a career in engineering.”

The first work experience weeks, held at our Gas Distribution Centre, gave the youngsters the chance to experience roles in departments across the site.

She said: “One of the things that surprised me the most was how seriously the company takes the safety of its employees and customers. The level of responsibility the engineers have during an average working day is overwhelming, but I always love a challenge.”

As well as gaining insight into the high-pressured roles at National Grid, interactive learning gave Jenna the opportunity to develop her leadership skills.

She said: “We got to do lots of activities together as a group. A simple task, such as passing a ball around, working out how we could pass it faster and more effectively, makes you think about how to work well as a team.”

Jenna is one of thousands of students who will be looking at entering higher education in the next year, but admits the placement has given her perspective on different ways to carve her career.

“I was so fixated on going straight to university, but now my eyes have been opened. There are so many apprenticeship schemes out there, like the one at National Grid, which I’ll definitely apply for.

“In the past, apprenticeships have had a bad press, but with university fees hitting £9,000 a year, people are looking at them as a great way to get hands-on training in a work environment to be steps ahead. This work experience has given me a great opportunity to broaden my perceptions and see what a career in engineering would be like.”