An engineer who dreamed of being a pilot, is now enjoying life as a lead engineer for a company focussed mostly on what lies underground.

As part of International Women in Engineering Day (Friday, June 23), a spotlight is being shone on former Hollins Technology College student Abi Bradwell.

Abi, who grew up in Accrington, works for Cadent, which manages the North West’s gas distribution network – 21,000 miles of mostly underground pipes and hundreds of above-ground stations.

The 24-year-old joined Cadent as a pressure control and storage apprentice in 2015.

Her three-year apprenticeship programme was followed by a supervised year on the tools, after which she became a fully competent engineer.

Lancashire Telegraph: AbiAbi (Image: Cadent)

Engineering and the utilities sector are very much a family affair as Abi’s mum, Gill, also works for Cadent, as did her dad, Phil, for many years, as well as her aunt and uncle.

Abi’s twin sister, Zoe, works for Openreach, on fibre contracts.

Abi said: “I’ve always been a hands-on person. My grandad lived nearby and would fix absolutely everything.

"I’d always be by his side, fascinated by what he was doing. If he needed little hands to do some of the more intricate jobs – that would be me.

“When I was a lot younger, the dream had been to be a pilot. Then, when I left school, I just seem to naturally fall into engineering and that was it, never looked back.”

Today, Abi is a lead engineer managing major, multi-million-pound upgrades to gas governors.

These are a vital part of the gas network, helping Cadent manage the pressure of gas as it travels to homes, schools, hospitals, offices and other buildings, where it is then used for heating, hot water and cooking.

They vary greatly in size; some housed in small, green kiosks beside rural roads, and others in very large, complex sites in the heart of cities.

Abi is managing projects across the North West, from Kendal to Macclesfield. The upgrades cover everything from the removal and replacement of all the on-site pipes and assets to the security and site husbandry of the area surrounding them.

She added: “I just like how it’s different every day – no two days are the same.

“It makes a difference too knowing that what you’re doing is so important to keeping people warm in their homes, particularly when it’s freezing out there.”

International Women in Engineering Day promotes the amazing work that women engineers are doing across the world.

Part of the aim is to encourage more young women and girls to consider taking up engineering careers – something that Abi supports 100 per cent.

In the UK, only 16.5 per cent of engineers are women.

Cadent offers a range of opportunities at entry-level (such as apprenticeships and graduate programmes) and has vacancies for qualified engineers too.

It employs around 1,200 people in the North West, and hundreds more as contractors.