The first woman in Shetland for 20 years to be awarded a full modern apprenticeship in engineering maintenance was celebrating this week.
Kristina Henderson, 21, from Lerwick, was presented with her certificate on Wednesday at her Lerwick employer Grieg Seafood Hjaltland UK Ltd.
Not known for engineering work, the company, which processes over 50 per cent of the isles’ salmon, actually relies on a skilled engineering workforce to ensure that all its factory equipment is regularly maintained.
Kristina, who is a trainee with Train Shetland, which receives funding from Skills Development Scotland, demonstrated real commitment and tenacity, having persevered for three years before finally being accepted on an apprenticeship scheme. Engineering is an extremely competitive area and accounts for over one third of Train Shetland’s current apprentices.
Kristina said: “I always knew that I wanted a practical, hands-on job. Both my father and uncle were engineers and it was a career I was keen to pursue. However, getting accepted on a scheme proved extremely difficult as it is so popular.
“I suppose it shows how stubborn I am in that I wouldn’t give up, writing letters and approaching different companies. Finally, it was when I was working on the factory floor at Grieg Seafood Hjaltland that I decided to approach the head engineer and ask whether I could be taken on as an apprentice. The company agreed and I started straight away.”
Now, after an intensive three-and-a-half varied years of practical work combined with college study at the NAFC Marine Centre in Scalloway, Kristina is progressing well with her engineering career.
She said: “I’m really pleased to have completed the apprenticeship. I love the work and the variety. I can be doing anything from repairing the processing equipment to doing fabrication in the workshop. I would definitely recommend an engineering apprenticeship.
“It was by far the better choice for me than going to university. It meant that I could earn money while I gained experience and did my college work. My next step is to continue with my engineering and I have in fact been offered a permanent position at Grieg.”
Grieg Seafood Hjaltland managing director Michael Stark said: “We currently have four apprentice engineers working for us and Kristina has been a real asset to the team, demonstrating a natural aptitude, in particular, for welding.
“We are a locally-based company and are very much committed to offering youngsters and school leavers the opportunity to pursue their chosen career and gain practical skills with local businesses. We work closely with Train Shetland and see real value in training Shetland’s young people – they are our future.
“We are thrilled to see Kristina awarded her certificate and, as a sign of our appreciation for all her hard work and motivation, we have also presented her with a cheque for £500. We are pleased that she has chosen to stay on with us and we wish her the very best in her engineering career.”
Skills Development Scotland chief executive Damien Yeates added: “I am delighted to congratulate Kristina as she completes her modern apprenticeship and receives her certificate. It is a tangible recognition of her hard work and the investment she and her employers have made to her training as an engineer.
“It is also a great opportunity to highlight the calibre of our country’s apprentices and to acknowledge their abilities, the quality of training and partnership working, which helps Scotland’s businesses develop individuals and their organisations in challenging and competitive marketplaces.”