Graduate of the Year 2017
Sophie’s a high flier
Preston engineer wins Semta Skills Award
Talented aeronautical engineer Sophie Harker is flying high after picking up a prestigious engineering award.
The 25 year old from Hillingdon in London beat off strong competition to be named the UK’s Graduate of the Year, sponsored by Airbus, last night at the Semta Skills Awards 2017 gala dinner in London’s Hilton Hotel on Park Lane hosted by BBC presenter Alexander Armstrong.
Sophie, an aero engineer with BAE Systems plc based in Preston Lancashire, said: "It was a shock to beat such incredible engineers – it is truly wonderful. I have had the privilege to be part of so many exciting projects.
"I don't come from an engineering background so it is a career for anyone. I credit this award to Helen Sharman as if it wasn't for meeting her in Parliament I would not be an engineer today."
She has ambitions to become an astronaut having visited Kennedy Space Center in Florida and later meeting the first Briton in Space, Helen Sharman, who suggested a career in engineering was the best route to take.
Since joining BAE Systems as a graduate Sophie’s main achievements include representing both BAE Systems and Reaction Engines at Farnborough International Airshow; being shortlisted in the 'Inspiration' category in the Women In Defence Awards 2016; BAE Systems Technical Graduate of the Year Award 2016; blogging to an audience of 11,000 and achieving second place in the Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS) 'Go for Gold' competition for her idea to enable construction in space using nanorobotics, martensitic materials and electromagnets.
After attending an Engineering Lean Learning Academy (ELLA) Sophie undertook a post-course project looking at process improvement for the installation of data into a system. This resulted in savings of £15,000 a year and many hours of non-value added work.
Professor Nick Colosimo, Technologist, Strategy and Planning at BAE Systems said: “Sophie led a very challenging piece of work relating to space with some very complex engineering solutions. She was diligent, determined and in many instances she surprised me. That made me realise my job was not just to ensure Sophie succeeds someone like me but surpasses someone like me and she showed that in the task.”
Ann Watson, CEO of Semta, the not-for-profit organisation tasked with skilling engineering and manufacturing in the UK said: “Sophie is a very deserving winner of the Semta Skills Award and is an inspirational role model for others.
“Her drive and determination is commendable, not only in her quest to become an astronaut but in her consistent high performance in the workplace.
“She is exactly the sort of person we need to champion female engineers. If we are to achieve the 800,000 extra engineers we need by 2020 it is vital we have more young women like Sophie in STEM careers to keep the UK’s skills talent pipeline flowing.”
Hundreds of nominations from across the UK for the nine categories were received to leave 27 finalists battling it out in the prestigious Semta Skills Awards, judged by an expert employer panel.
Runners up were: Riccardo Puca, Rolls-Royce plc and Philippa Spencer, Rolls-Royce plc, Derby
Watch a vide of Sophie at the awards: