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A pioneering formula: apprenticing in the all-female GB Lubricants laboratory

Trailblazer Freya Moody is a role model with rules: “be yourself, never let things you’ve been told that you can’t do because you’re a woman stop you, you can do it, of course you can. Don’t be held back, put your best foot forward and do the job well.” 

As the first apprentice to join the all-female team responsible for the day-to-day running of the GB Lubricants laboratory, Freya is an inspiration for the next generation of women who aspire to succeed in the oil and lubricants industry, which often struggles to attract female candidates. Her journey began just over two years ago, when she decided to retrain and pursue a more fulfilling career. 

“I really enjoyed science at school and going through past papers when I was doing my GCSEs, so I looked at what roles were available that enabled me to learn and gain practical experience at the same time,” explains Freya, who was then working as a fast food chain shift manager. “You spend so much of your time at work so you’ve got to be able to enjoy what you do.”

After searching for apprenticeships on the government portal, Freya secured her role at GB Lubricants with help from the education and development trust, TDR Training. She divides her time between remote learning at college for one day per week – a classroom setting is currently not possible due to covid restrictions – and the GB Lubricants laboratory for the remaining four.

“Seeing the concepts I’m learning about in real life, seeing how they matter and how they can be applied is really helpful,” says the twenty-five-year-old, who admits to shedding a few tears at the kitchen table when she’s struggled with elements of her course. “With all the support and resources I have around me, from college, from colleagues and from my family I’ve powered through.”

The laboratory apprenticeship was created so that GB Lubricants could help an individual kickstart their career in the science and lubricants industry and Lab Technician Beth Burnett, who oversees Freya, considers it an honour to be part of her learning journey. “Our company champions equal opportunity so the position was given to who was best suited to the role,” says Beth. “We are seeing less bias towards gender for specific roles and it shows that with the skills required, anyone can get the role that they want.”

Identifying Freya’s clear determination to work hard in order to “get where she wants” as one of the traits that made her stand apart from other candidates, Managing Director Paul Booth believes a united approach by the lubricants and wider oil & gas industry is helping to address outdated gender bias and promote a more diverse sector. This is also being driven by the United Kingdom Lubricants Association (UKLA), who last year, hosted the first ever Women in Lubricants industry conference, which celebrated women and their key roles in a sector that is traditionally dominated by men.

“In recent years, we’ve seen more females apply for a variety of positions in the business,” says Paul, who strives to increase female participation at GB Lubricants, where women currently account for a quarter of the workforce. “I am pleased we now have two women in senior management roles, and whilst improving, there is still a lot of work to be done. We want to be more inclusive as an employer, and encourage different ideas and perspectives on running the company.”

Despite initial concerns that she’d be the only woman, and that “people wouldn’t think I’d be any good because I’m a woman,” Freya says “traditional gender stereotyping” is not something she’s encountered at GB Lubricants. “No one does, or should think any less of me and my ability because of my gender,” she says.  “Who is to say that a woman doesn’t have all the answers and they are not the best person for the job? It makes me feel good to know that the company has got my back.”  

Supported and overseen by Technical Manager Paul Crozier, Freya works with Beth on a range of quality control tests. “It’s great to be here, I don’t miss working with burgers and fries and it feels really good seeing the business and everyone around me succeeding,” says Freya, whose confidence has soared since first putting on the trademark GB Lubricants polo shirt, a moment she highlights as when she felt truly part of the team.

“Working with Freya has been a breath of fresh air,” says Beth. “She has picked up skills exceptionally fast and I'm confident in her to carry out any task unaided. She is an asset to the company.”

When her two-year apprenticeship is complete in October this year, Freya hopes to qualify with a Level 3 BTEC in Applied Science, a Level 3 NVQ Diploma in Laboratory and Associated Technical Activities, and a Level 3 SIAS Laboratory technician. 

With hopes to apply her skills to shaping the future of the industry, it’s women like Freya that will play a vital role in meeting the demand for skills and ideas to combat the challenges of new and more sustainable technology. 

“It could be really exciting,” she says. “It is rewarding to think I have the power to make and test formulations that will really make a difference.”

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