From building a moped to take a 40-mile round trip to the school of her choice, to moving across the country with her beloved horses in tow to pursue a career dream; Beth Suckling doesn’t allow anything to daunt her.

At just 19 she has been a speaker at a leading energy conference, a peer mentor and the writer of a top-level document through her EDF degree apprenticeship, which will see her name stamped on it for years to come. Impressive stuff from someone who, by her own admission, is a “naturally shy and introverted person”.

Throw in her A Level studies at a high-performing school and an internship with a ground-breaking geothermal company, and it’s clear to see that Beth has been driven by the vast opportunities available in the renewable industry and the chance to inspire others.

“I’m a degree apprentice in a sector responsible for bringing the first-of-a-kind, next-generation nuclear project to fruition for years and that’s exciting,” said Beth, who grew up near Fakenham in Norfolk.

“I went to a primary school with very few students, but just before my GCSEs I moved to the University Technical College Norfolk (UTCN). To move schools just before my GCSEs was quite a risk, but I was adamant.

Eastern Daily Press: Beth is currently completing a degree apprenticeship with EDFBeth is currently completing a degree apprenticeship with EDF (Image: Beth Suckling)
“I wanted to be a bike mechanic. When I was growing up my dad would watch Moto GP and I remarked how there were no female mechanics in the pit lane. He told me I needed to do something about that.

“I went for the open evening at UTCN and saw all the machinery and it felt like a playhouse, I got hooked on the idea.

“To begin with I got up at 6am in the morning for a two-hour bus ride and then back at 6pm. I still had my horses to tend to as well. I rebuilt my bike when I was 15, ready for when I was 16 and then I went on my moped to the college for a year, come rain or shine.”

The moped progressed to a bigger bike and a car, and as her vehicles got larger, so did her ambitions.

“Being at the school during my A Levels and taking part in workshops with different companies opened my eyes massively. Engineering isn’t nuts and bolts, it’s so much more than that. I questioned my whole future.”

At 17, Beth was given an opportunity to take a paid internship with the award-winning geothermal company Ceraphi, and later she became a peer mentor for Swedish developer Vattenfall.

“Both opportunities made me wonder what was out there with energy companies, but they also made me want to be that passionate about my work. It was a big turning point for me.”

A placement at Arc Fabrications in King’s Lynn followed, where she designed a grated step – a metal non-slip surface step – which was manufactured, and Beth decided to turn her back on university for a degree apprenticeship in mechanical engineering.

“I wanted practical knowledge and a hands-on experience, and the opportunity to apply to EDF as a degree apprentice really appealed. The whole process took six months, but I was absolutely delighted to be given the opportunity.”

The job meant a move to Somerset to be based near Hinkley Point C, where EDF is building two nuclear reactors, the first in a new generation of power stations in the UK.

“It was a massive move away from my family in rural Norfolk and I didn’t know anyone, but I was determined to do it. I took both my horses and found them a livery close to where I lived so I could see them every day.”

Eastern Daily Press: Beth’s busy life includes her two horses, which she took to Somerset when she was based at Hinkley Point CBeth’s busy life includes her two horses, which she took to Somerset when she was based at Hinkley Point C (Image: Beth Suckling)
Beth is now in the second year of the four-year course, splitting her time between Norfolk and Somerset depending on whether she has in-person or remote college blocks or placements.

Her first placement was to work on a hazard study for Hinkley Point C analysing the flooding and earthquake integrity of a building, carrying out calculations of where water would distribute and how flooding could be mitigated.

“I was asked to write a document on it and chair a kick-off meeting, inviting impacted teams. The fact they trusted me to do that was incredible. The document is important, so if I had done anything wrong it could have impacted other studies. The work I did is going forward and my name will be stamped on it for years to come.”

Beth’s next placement is in the pre-operations team, which will give her a chance to explore a specialism of mechanical engineering, and in September she is spending several months at Sizewell B.

“I would like to see where my placements take me, but I would also like to become a chartered engineer. I want to do my master’s and I like the idea of doing that in New Zealand. My ultimate aim is to come back and secure a job here in Norfolk.

“Hinkley Point C will run for many years, it will be fuelling my children and potentially even their children. My name will be on that paperwork and I feel like I’m leaving a legacy. To be part of a project like that has been so rewarding.

“When it’s done, we’ll look back and think how we built it together and see how many companies and industries it brought together, it’s just phenomenal.

“It’s been such a long time since a nuclear project has been built, there are so many experts who work on these projects. People don’t realise the waste is so miniscule – it’s the size of my fingernail for masses of amounts of energy.

“I’m a very shy and introverted person, but I have tried to push myself out of my comfort zone as if you don’t ask, you don’t get. I’m glad I’ve taken up those opportunities as it’s about opening yourself up to as many as possible.”