We're on a Mission - Celebrating Women in Scottish Water with Mechelle Barbour

07 March 2024
Michelle Barbour Waste Water Team Leader at Scottish Water on International Women's Day

Celebrating on International Women's Day

Mechelle wants other women to join her in operational roles traditionally held by men

“Despite our best efforts, women don’t apply for apprenticeships in the same numbers as men and that’s something we would love to change.”

Mechelle Barbour
Waste Water Team Leader, Scottish Water

This year, Scottish Apprenticeship Week coincides with International Women’s Day, so we are celebrating the achievements and contributions of women across our organisation, including those working in operational roles that have traditionally been filled by men.  

We’re on a mission to encourage more women into parts of our business where they are under-represented. And one of the key routes into those careers is Modern Apprenticeships. 

Starting at Scottish Water in 2017, I recently made the move from our People team to join Wastewater Operations as a Team Leader in the Ayrshire area. I lead a team that includes both treatment and senior operators, while also having the privilege of mentoring and supporting modern apprentices within my team. 

In the lead-up to International Women’s Day and the launch of our 2024 Apprenticeship recruitment campaign, I recently had the opportunity to sit down with one of my modern apprentices, Siobhon Clark, who began her wastewater treatment apprenticeship in 2023. Together, we explored the significance of women in operational roles and reflected on Siobhon’s journey so far as an apprentice at Scottish Water. 

Why Women Should Consider Apprenticeships and Operational Roles at Scottish Water 

When Siobhon and I discussed the importance of women in operational roles, we both acknowledged our responsibility in promoting operational career paths as a viable option for women, especially in fields like wastewater treatment. It was great to hear about Siobhon’s positive experience so far, and her enthusiasm to encourage other women to join Scottish Water without hesitation.  

It’s fantastic to see more women coming into frontline operations through apprenticeships, which re-emphasises the immense value of diverse perspectives. We must recognise individuals based on their abilities, rather than their gender. We’re both optimistic about the ongoing shift towards greater gender diversity in our industry and hope to inspire others to embrace this positive change. 

Why Women Choose Operations at Scottish Water 

Reflecting on her decision to pursue a career in operations, Siobhon expressed her aspiration for career advancement and personal growth. She saw Scottish Water as a great opportunity to improve herself. As for me, I was fascinated with the scientific aspects of our work and I’m really enthusiastic about leading a team within our frontline operations that share a solution and resolution-focused mindset. 


Highlights and Challenges 

Siobhon and I discussed what we love about our roles. Siobhon, who's been with us for six months, enjoys the variety of tasks and meeting different people daily. She finds great value in learning from experienced operators who have a wealth of knowledge. I agree, we have a very positive atmosphere within our team. With a blend of experienced and new talent, we've been able to create a supportive environment that's all about learning and growing together. 

I value what Siobhon brings to the team as an apprentice and I think it’s important for new team members to be given the opportunity to get the basics right. I also commend our in-house Skills Academy for supporting Siobhon in completing her SVQ qualification. 

We also discussed the challenges in our roles, and Siobhon rightly pointed out how important teamwork is in being able to address these. The experienced members of my team lead, guide, and empower other members of the team to get involved through to resolution. The nature of our work can be unpredictable at times, so we need to be able to adapt quickly. We work as a team to prioritise tasks and tackle issues while minimising the impact on the environment and our customers. 

Applying for An Apprenticeship at Scottish Water 

Every year, more women are offered places on our apprenticeship programmes – and they’re thriving. But despite our best efforts, women don’t apply for apprenticeships in the same numbers as men. Which means they are still under-represented in these sorts of roles. That’s something we would love to change. 

So, to the ladies reading this, please don’t be deterred by stereotypes. Apprenticeships are for everybody. We’re looking for people who’d enjoy these kinds of roles. If that includes you, we absolutely want you to apply. We have a strong network of women (and men!) across Scottish Water who will be there to support and encourage you every step of the way.


We’re launching an exciting new recruitment campaign on Monday 11th of March 2024, aiming to bring new apprentices on board from all over Scotland. We're looking to find trainees who want to learn about a range of specialised roles, including: 

Electrical & Mechanical Maintenance  
Engineering & Construction Project Management  
Health & Safety  
Metering Technician  
Quantity Surveying  
Science (Biology/Chemistry)  
Wastewater Treatment  
Water Networks Operations  
Water Treatment  
For more details on our apprentice programmes and how to apply, check out our website: Scottish Water Careers - Modern Apprenticeships