Mollie - Aeronautical Engineer

Mollie the Merlin mechanic, breaking barriers and fixing helicopters

Mollie McAusland is one of the few Aeronautical Engineers employed at Serco who also happens to be a young woman. Fully qualified as of March 2020, Mollie is a strong advocate for promoting women in engineering, as well as being a passionate supporter of apprenticeships and the opportunities they can offer school leavers.

The Serco team based at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose maintain Merlin helicopters on behalf of the Royal Navy. Of 260 people on the contract, less than 10 are female engineers. This can be quite a challenging environment for any school leaver apprentice to come into, doubly true for a young woman. 

But Mollie is made of sterner stuff. Three years after joining Serco straight out of college, she has now completed an Aeronautical Aircraft Engineer apprenticeship, giving her a globally recognised qualification. 

“When I was doing the apprenticeship, I felt like I had to try and prove myself, especially coming in as a woman. Now we’ve got a lot more women coming in, and I see my role very much as helping them have a good place to step into. I think it’s important to set an example, so that new recruits have a woman to talk to, who has gone through that same experience.”

“I work a lot with local schools and head teachers to promote women in engineering as well as talking about apprenticeships and how beneficial they can be. I did really well in my GCSEs and felt that an apprenticeship was the right option for me. I think a lot of people consider good students to be ‘too clever’ for an apprenticeship. But for me, at 20 years old I’ve now got the qualification and experience to go into commercial engineering and at the same time have also got the opportunity to buy my first house. That wouldn’t be the case if I’d gone to university.”

“Serco have enabled me to adapt this apprenticeship to take part in as many STEM opportunities as possible. My fellow employees have been brilliant and have taught me everything I know, despite the challenges, I cannot fault anyone for the advice they have given me.”

A typical day for Mollie can vary hugely depending on how many aircraft are on the workshop floor. “When an aircraft comes in from the Navy, we strip it down and build it back up again, which takes it about 6 months. We don’t get to go up in them, but we do what’s called a ‘ground run’ where we put all three engines on and has the same kind of effect.” 

“As a mechanical engineer I do the spanner turning, lifting, fitting bits to the aircraft and taking pieces off.”

Mollie’s skills aren’t limited to helicopters. “Until recently I had a little Vauxhall Corsa which I would basically take the wheels off and play around with the brakes. I figured if I could do it on a Merlin, why would my car be much different!”

For those thinking about starting an apprenticeship, Mollie’s advice is simple. 

“Take advice from people, but go with exactly what you want, and don’t let people change what you want to do. In this particular engineering apprenticeship each day is different, and it gives you the perfect foundation to do whatever you want, car, trains, planes, you name it.”