Hannah uses Arup apprenticeship success to inspire others

An award-winning apprentice with a passion for tackling both skills shortages and gender inequality is encouraging more young people to get into STEM careers through her work as a STEM ambassador. 

Hannah Mehr left school at 16 and began working for Arup in Manchester after enjoying a successful work experience week there in Year 10. 

Now 19, she is a data scientist at the firm, while continuing to study for her level 6 qualification - and is passionate about changing misconceptions around apprenticeships. 

“Apprenticeships are so wonderful for so many people – I think businesses could support them so much more and schools could be better at promoting them,” said Hannah, who recently won the Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE) Apprentice of the Year award. 

“The A-Levels and University route is not right for a lot of people and other paths such as apprenticeships aren’t always taught in schools as being an acceptable option.” 

Hannah receives immense support from her colleagues at Arup as an outreach ambassador, regularly visiting schools to promote Science Technology Engineering and Maths (STEM) based careers. 

Hannah discovered Arup when she was just 15, after applying to do a week of work experience at the firm, as part of the annual Arup Design Programme, which encourages students to consider the different disciplines of engineering. 

She said: “Because of the Arup Design Programme, I found my career path at Arup and I’m trying to pay back the opportunity that has been given to me. 

“I go into schools and talk about apprenticeships because I feel that I got very lucky with mine. 

“There is a misconception that apprenticeships are only for certain industries, not necessarily in things like digital.” 

Hannah adds that even though she was academically successful at school and could have chosen to go down the A-Levels and University route, she experienced the misconception that apprenticeships “are only for people who don’t do well at school”. 

“There’s definitely a stigma around apprenticeships that I experienced,” she says. 

“People would ask “why would you want to do an apprenticeship instead of doing A-levels and going to university?” 

“I try to do a lot of work to change perceptions, as I don’t think students are necessarily given that opportunity or have that option promoted to them.” 

Hannah particularly loves the way her job role and learning overlaps different subjects, like maths, physics, science, English and even history. 

“Engineering is not just maths and physics and schools don’t show the crossover between subjects in different job roles,” she explains. 

“Every different career is a handful of subjects thrown together. 

“When you learn subjects in school, they are kept in categories, but in real life, there is so much crossover between them.” 

Hannah is also keen to see more female role models in engineering and digital careers like data science. 

“I think women have a massive place in engineering and the digital industry – there definitely should be more women in these industries to tackle skills shortages,” she says. 

“Apprenticeships could help plug that skills shortage and enable more women to make that journey from school into industry. 

“There needs to be more female role models in the engineering space and the digital industry. 

“Overall, we are making a lot of progress, but we are not quite there yet - there’s a lot more work to be done.” 

Hannah, who expects to complete her apprenticeship in 2025, also praised Arup for its female role models, noting the company has a digital women’s network, which regularly meets and holds events. 

There is also a mentoring programme at the firm. 

Hannah says: “I think mentoring is a really big thing – having someone to bounce ideas off and give an opinion is so valuable.” 

Speaking of her recent award win, modest Hannah says there were so many candidates shortlisted who “seemed amazing” - so she wasn’t expecting to win. 

“Just being shortlisted was recognition enough - to win was incredible,” she said. 

“I’ve had lots of support from work, which has been amazing and it’s given me visibility.” 

Selfless and inspirational, Hannah has tried to use this visibility at the careers events she attends, to inspire other young people. 

“Personally, winning the award was validation of my decision to leave school at 16, which was unheard of in my school,” she says. 

Hannah also praised ACE for recognising the importance of apprenticeships with a specific award category. 

“It validates the fact that apprenticeships are really important to the future of the industry,” she says. 

“On an apprenticeship, you’re thrown into projects with actual responsibilities and the industry recognising that through ACE is brilliant.” 


If you would like to contact Sarah Walker about this, or any other story, please email sarah@infrastructure-intelligence.com.