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Charlotte Kerr: ‘Positively Pink' Porthole Into Civil Engineering

Charlotte Kerr

That's me - 'Positively Pink Engineering' representing any young female, anywhere, enthusiastic about civil engineering!

1 December 2014

Photo: Charlotte Kerr, right, with her sister Emily

I am a female dyslexic, a state school student, on my way to becoming a chartered civil engineer - proving that if you want to do it you can do it. Please check it out on facebook and comment.

Inspiration to Aspiration

Like a lot of other young school girls I wasn't sure what I wanted to do after school.  My journey of discovery started in choosing  STEM  (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects in school. I wanted to keep my future career options open and chose Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Maths, among English, French, History, and Physical Education. In taking STEM subjects I was introduced to the physical world of problem solving.. It started here with the basics in trying to solve a maths equation or a physics problem and developed into science fairs and inter-school competitions. I was the only girl in my physics class. My teacher was very supportive and encouraging. This was a huge help because I really had to work hard in physics. If you find a subject challenging and you are in a minority, you are even more self-conscious of your shortcomings. I had to decide whether to resit my physics or abandon it.  I took a hard look at what I saw as a difficulty and considered how I could best address it and my solution was to think ' positively pink ' and  try to improve my physics. I did eventually with a lot of time and effort become more competent and  I became more confident and began to enjoy it. I learned if you '  think ' you can  - you can and when you are good at something, it becomes easier and more fun and you want to share your knowledge.  

I wanted to help others who  faced similar challenges and applied to become a STEM Ambassador. I recognised there was a need for more young people to bridge the information gap between school and further education,  apprenticeships and STEM careers. I understood and knew the challenges pupils faced, especially  girls and  students with extra educational needs. I wanted to help enable and inspire others to aspire. A STEM Ambassador is the best way to reach other students and dispel myths and preconceptions.  

Think ' Pink '

Thinking ' pink ' is my way of saying to girls think about your potential and the infinite possibilities - try to be all you can be. For me studying STEM subjects has opened  many doors into an exciting future. The problem today is fewer school pupils are choosing to study STEM subjects, maybe because they find it harder to engage in STEM lessons without knowing the careers it can lead to?  Right now the whole country is facing a STEM skills gap with an even greater shortage of females. Part of the solution is to let young girls know they are missing in action – give them the confidence and expertise to explore STEM subjects and future careers. Build a brighter future and encourage more females to think ‘pink’ about STEM.

My Effort  

Charlotte KerrI wanted to help others who faced similar challenges and applied to become a STEM Ambassador. I recognised there was a need for more young people to bridge the information gap between school and further education, apprenticeships and STEM careers. I understood and knew the challenges pupils faced, especially  girls and  students with extra educational needs. I wanted to help enable and inspire others to aspire. A STEM Ambassador is the best way to reach other students and dispel myths and preconceptions.  

I was a leading member of my school’s ‘Young Engineers and Science Club ‘ and we were recognised as the best in our region and commended by our Minister of Scottish Parliament. We entered inter-school and science competitions and even took part in the London Big Bang Fair. It was at these competitions I noticed a distinct lack of other female pupils representing their schools. It raised the question ‘Why?' My reply was ‘Positively Pink Engineering‘ a facebook initiative to spread the word - girl to girl you are needed  now.

It was through the ‘Young Engineer’s Club‘ I became interested in engineering and then civil engineering.  I marveled at the feats of civil engineers and how they achieve the impossible, designing and building our future. I wanted  to learn as much as I could about civil engineering and began writing to companies requesting work experience. I would read about big infrastructure projects going on and then apply to the company carrying out the works. Each company was very helpful and this allowed me to gain a broad range of experience from consultancy to hands on site works. I strongly advise all students to proactively seek out work experience to help you decide if you are on the right career path. This work experience fueled my passion for civil engineering and greatly contributed to me receiving an ICE (Institute of Civil Engineers)  QUEST Company Scholarship with Mott MacDonald Consultants where I intend to work my way up to a Chartered Engineer. This scholarship sponsors you to study for your degree in university and offers company training and mentoring throughout your degree. STEM Scholarships can be a big help financially and educationally in reaching your goal. You can find mine and others on the ICE website.

Some universities offer summer schools programmes for prospective students to sample a chosen course and experience university life. They may even include accommodation and  often they are free if you attend a state school.  I loved my 8 week summer school experience where I studied Engineering and Maths and this  gave me the confidence and commitment to get into university to study civil engineering.  After experiencing university life at summer school I knew what was expected.  Sometimes it is the not knowing fear that holds you back. I highly recommend trying a university summer school you can find out what studying STEM at university is all about.  'Why not?' - give it a go.   

'Why?’ and ‘Why Not?‘

All of this is ‘Why‘ I am so glad I chose STEM subjects, bringing  fun, excitement, and opportunities to real life.  And ‘ Why Not? ‘  There is no reason!  

The WISE Girl Award

Winning the WISE Girl Award has spurred me on to keep inspiring girls into STEM subjects. My head teacher at Grantown Grammar Comprehensive did say ‘There are many different paths leading to your goal.‘ Keep going there is a path for you if you are interested in exploring STEM careers.  It may be through further education in college, university, or an earning and learning company apprenticeship, with many offering enabling support to ensure you reach your full potential. I am your average girl and if I can do it so can you. My path involved  challenges and failure which I began to see as opportunities to learn and try again and the rewards were worth it. I hope I can show girls that you do not need to be a rocket scientist to be good at science – just enjoy science. Your STEM future starts now!

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