Putting Gender on the Agenda for advanced manufacturing and engineering
12 December 2012
Sarah Sillars, chief executive of Sector Skills Council Semta
As the new chief executive of Semta, my aim is to improve the skills of the UK advanced manufacturing and engineering sector. Semta is bucking the trend by appointing a woman to lead the charge in such a male-dominated sector.
However the sector needs more women. Currently, only six per cent of engineers are female – a figure that’s moved up only 1% in the last five years!
This is at a time when many companies are reporting difficulties in recruiting suitably skilled staff. With women making up 50 per cent of the population, encouraging more females into careers in these vital wealth producing sectors seems an obvious solution.
We have much to offer. Research among men and women shows three quarters rate women higher than men for intuition, empathy and in understanding how decisions play out in the wider organisation.
The manufacturing and engineering industry contributes £140 billion per annum to the economy. To maintain its place in a competitive global marketplace, we need to ensure we have enough people with the right skills. Semta research predicts the need to recruit and train an additional 82,000 scientists, engineers and technologists by 2016, to cope with growth and plug skills lost through retirement.
Advanced manufacturing and engineering needs fresh talent and it’s an attractive sector, regardless of gender, offering highly competitive challenge and reward for the best candidates.
The biggest issues in attracting and retaining female talent are a lack of female role models and of gender specific training. So Semta created the Career Advancement and Progression programme to unlock the barriers for women working in engineering and manufacturing.
The Career Advancement and Progression is an action oriented training programme which helps women analyse their current position and work towards specific individual career objectives. It also includes coaching to increase confidence and tackle specific gender behaviour traits.
The programme works. Of the 1,300 programme participants to date, from firms such as BAE Systems, Jaguar Land Rover and Airbus, 88 per cent said they have more confidence and self-belief since completing the programme; over half reported that they have taken on more responsibility (58 per cent); and a fifth of participants (18 per cent) moved to a new role.
Not only does the programme help individuals to progress their career, but it also helps businesses to address possible organisational barriers faced by their female employees and retain high potentials.
As so many high profile employers recognise, programmes like Semta’s are effective. Women don’t need quotas to succeed. Most women want to progress based on merit. However it makes good business sense for male-dominated companies to nurture their female employees to reach their full potential - and contribute their skills to the industry. In doing so, the tide will turn and more women will be encouraged to consider careers in the economically vital advanced manufacturing and engineering sector.
Employers interested in the Career Advancement and Progression Programme can contact Semta customer services on 0845 643 9001.