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Making engineering attractive to women

I’ve worked closely with advanced manufacturing and engineering employers for the last 20 years.  Over that time I’ve seen positive change in terms of attitudes and in the workplace itself which makes engineering careers even more attractive to women. 

Today it’s well recognised that there is the need to specifically develop women to support the growth of Britain’s highly valuable advanced manufacturing and engineering industry. They are still the great untapped resource.

Semta research indicates that over 82,000 scientists, engineers and technologists will be needed across the UK by 2016 to take advantage of growth opportunities and to reduce the impact of skills lost through retirement. 

Only six per cent of engineers are female at a time when companies are reporting difficulties in recruiting suitably skilled staff.

Semta’s own research found that a lack of female role models and gender specific training were key issues for women working in engineering and manufacturing. So we developed a programme to help women in male-dominated industries to analyse their current position and identify specific individual career objectives.

Delivered through three-day workshops, the Career Advancement and Progression Programme equips participants with relevant skills and confidence to tackle specific gender behaviour traits. It also helps the business to understand and address possible organisational barriers faced by their female employees.

So far, around 1,300 women in leading engineering companies such as BAE Systems, Jaguar Land Rover, Atkins and Airbus, have benefitted from the Career Advancement and Progression Programme, with well over half reporting that they have taken on more responsibility (58 per cent) while a fifth of participants (18 per cent) moved to a new role. The programme is available across the UK and in England it is backed by a recognised qualification from awarding organisation EAL.

By ensuring more women are motivated and supported to reach their potential, the programme harnesses the skills of women working in the industry and encourages them to progress – which in turn will help attract more women into the industry. I am confident that creating strong female role models will help promote the excellent career opportunities that are available in the science, engineering and manufacturing and support Britain’s vital industrial sector as a result.

More still needs to be done. Girls need to be inspired about engineering at an early age and made aware of the options before they choose which subjects to study at GCSE and A level. We need more role models, more positive stories about engineering, and to exploit the potential of social media and social networking to convey the right message. And you need maths and science teachers to have a strong awareness of what engineering is and how it can provide a great career.

Employers interested in finding out how the Career Advancement and Progression Programme could support their business strategy can visit www.semta.org.uk/advance  or contact Semta customer services on 0845 643 9001. 

Lynn Tomkins

Lynn Tomkins

Lynn Tomkins, UK operations director at the sector skills council for manufacturing, Semta. Considers how women are the great untapped resource to support business growth. 

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