• A talented apprentice and Miss Wales candidate wants to inspire future generations of young girls into engineering

Jess Downes, from Towyn, is still reeling after being shortlisted for the national competition, which takes place in Newport this May.

Given her day-to-day life as a learner at Coleg Cambria and apprentice maintenance engineer at Toyota’s Deeside plant, she admits some people have found the decision to enter the beauty pageant a little strange.

But the 23 year-old former flight attendant is all about “breaking the mould” and hopes to fly the flag for both organisations while raising as much money as she can for the global charity, Beauty With A Purpose.

“A lot of people still look at these contests as if they are dated but it’s very different now, the focus is on empowering young women, creating opportunities, feminism and making a difference,” said Jess, who is backed by mum Sarah, dad Russell and eight year-old brother, Olly.

“That really appealed to me, but initially because I spend most of my day working with vehicles a lot of people found it strange to put these two worlds together!

“I think it’s important to break the mould and try to see and do things differently, to challenge yourself and stereotypes.

“With the support of Coleg Cambria – who are sponsoring my Miss Wales journey – there’s no doubt I can do well, but the most important thing is to represent all the other young girls out there who may find obstacles between them and their chosen career.”

As a teenager, Jess battled with mental health issues and anorexia but has fought back and feels fitter, stronger, and happier than ever.

The pandemic hit her hard and forced a rethink as to what the future held; a love of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) and ICT subjects led her down the apprenticeship route, and she has no intention of looking back.

“I am loving every second of it and everyone is so welcoming and helpful,” she added.

“It is a traditionally male-dominated environment but the only way that will change is if more young girls show an appetite to make a difference and take the opportunity to join this industry.

“I acted on impulse when I found out about the apprenticeship, and the same with Miss Wales; sometimes you have to just go for it.

“I’m glad I did and look forward to sharing my message in the months ahead – you can do anything if you work hard and put your mind to it.”

Kelvin Hand, a Technical Training Officer at Cambria’s Institute of Technology in Deeside, reinforced those comments.

“We are immensely proud of her achievements in the competition and very pleased with the work Jess continues to do in college,” said Kelvin.

“She is a true asset and role model to the programme – we need people like Jess to inspire more young women into engineering.”

To sponsor Jess, visit the JustGiving page: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/jessica-downes12.

Visit www.cambria.ac.uk for more news and information from Coleg Cambria.

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