Laying the Foundations for Rewarding Careers
In the UK today, government, employers and educators all acknowledge the shortage of skilled technical professionals, with a projected requirement for over 100,000 new scientists, engineers and technologists every year to 2020. Women are significantly under-represented in engineering and technology careers and if this continues, the shortfall will be exacerbated and employers will struggle to fill vacancies with British talent for years to come.
Yet there is no reason why women shouldn’t build successful careers in technical disciplines.
These opportunities were explored at an interactive discovery workshop for girls, their parents and teachers. Organised jointly by WISE and Leeds College of Building and hosted at the First Direct Arena, Leeds, the ‘Building you Future’ event was designed to engage and inspire young women to pursue apprenticeship opportunities in the built environment, construction and engineering sectors.
Recent research of 18 to 34 year olds carried out by City & Guilds Group showed that young men are twice as likely to be encouraged to take a technical apprenticeship as young women. In the construction industry in particular only 0.6% of women were encouraged to make it their career compared to 12% of men.
Inspired by a recent careers evening held in Basildon where Samantha Cameron and Miriam Clegg acted as career role models for young women, ‘Building your Future’ took the form of a ‘speed dating’ event. Young women currently working in technical roles acted as role models, hosting a table where girls, parents and teachers had the opportunity to hear first-hand about their working life.
The 25 role models came from different companies and represented a broad range of options. Some had started work as apprentices, others had been to university; some were still completing their education whilst others had been practicing for some time.
Janet Beckett, a building services consultant with Carbon Saver UK, said “Meeting all the incredibly bright and enthusiastic students and challenging their perceptions was a real joy. Women are woefully underrepresented in my field, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) and building services design, at around 3%. I believe much of this is due to media stereotypes and lack of engagement with STEM in schools which really ought to begin at primary school. It is such a shame as women make great engineers!”
The workshop also considered the benefits of technical apprenticeships. Amy Parker, a maintenance scheme producer with A-One, who maintain parts of the motorway network, summed up the key pluses: lots of job opportunities; the chance to earn while you learn and avoid a student loan; studying for a valuable qualification; and once training is complete, already having practical experience of the job.
Brian Duffy, from Leeds College of Building, also emphasised the wide range of high quality job opportunities available to apprentices. “In the Construction sector alone, there are over 100 roles ranging from bricklayers and plumbers to design engineers and architects. The student can go in at any level and progress to any level according to their personal ambition, capabilities and lifestyle. The highest level of qualification is the equivalent of a University degree and is acknowledged as such by employers.”
Over 60 girls, 10 parents and 8 teachers from several local schools attended the event and feedback was positive; one of the attendees commented how much she had enjoyed learning about the construction industry and how many opportunities there are, commenting “I will definitely look at an engineering apprenticeship or doing STEM subjects at A Level”.
The event was sponsored by major UK employers including A-One, Atkins, CECA, InCommunities and NG Bailey.