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A wise way for women to step into the world of engineering

Inspirational women from the world of engineering are taking part in a special workshop this weekend to encourage girls to consider it as a career.

From Press releases - 20 November 2014 12:00 AM

Inspirational women from the world of engineering are taking part in a special workshop this weekend to encourage girls to consider it as a career.

Hundreds of girls aged between 11 and 18 years old will be descending on St Benedict’s Catholic School in Bury St Edmunds this Saturday (November 22) to find out more about careers in science, technology and engineering.

The interactive workshop, sponsored by UK Power Networks in partnership with WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) is hoping to kick-start a surge of interest from young women to help fill the looming skills gap in the industry.  UK Power Networks are joined at the event by Carillion, J Murphy & Sons and Siemens.

UK Power Networks owns and maintains the vast amount of overhead power cables, underground cables and substations which deliver electricity to the doors of eight million properties across East Anglia, London and the South East.

It regularly takes on apprentices and graduates as well as direct entry personnel and is encouraging girls to consider a career in engineering, which historically has always been a male dominated career.

By 2020, the UK will need more than 100,000 new engineers to meet industry demand and so the work is starting now to attract new recruits, tapping into a pool of people that historically may not have considered this type of career.

At the event there will be more than 20 female role models both from UK Power Networks and partner organisations all of whom are in a variety of different roles, who will be telling their stories and inspiring school girls to re-think careers in science and engineering.

As well as role models there will be the opportunity to look at some of the network equipment they work on and with, including interactive activities with an element of fun to demonstrate key principles – for example attendees get the chance to configure a digger to score a goal.

Helen Wain, UK Power Networks’ Category Manager is the brains behind the event. She began her engineering career in the automotive industry and designed the power steering system which Jaguar is still using today.

She said: “Historically the industry has only attracted 50 per cent of the population, an ever-reducing pool all blue chip companies are targeting.

“Women look at things differently, have different problem solving skills and a different approach. A recent Government Equalities Office report highlighted that equalising participation rates of men and women in the labour market could increase economic growth by 0.5 percent a year, potentially improving the country’s wealth by about 10 per cent by 2030.
“It further stated there was an overwhelming business case, supported by strong evidence, for maximising women’s contribution to growth and one way to achieve that is to broaden girls’ aspirations and job choices before the start of their working lives by creating a partnership between schools, business and parents.
“Within our industry, we have people with 40 or 50 years of experience but we need to secure that pipeline with people who have the technical skills to backfill the gap when they are gone. It gives people a fighting chance in a level playing field if they can start out with informed decisions. It’s only been in the recent past that businesses have actually been pushing girls towards both what have traditionally been seen as “pink jobs” and “blue jobs.”

“This is the first time we have organised something like this and it’s really exciting. We’ve been overwhelmed by the interest we have had, with some schools wanting to book out the whole event.”

The event is being facilitated by WISE. Helen Wollaston, director of WISE Campaign said: "Most girls don't think about working in engineering because they have never met a woman who does, so they assume it isn't for them. Meeting young women who are engineers and love what they do is a great way to show them a more positive side of the industry."

Hugh O’Neill, headteacher at St Benedict’s Catholic School, said: “St Benedict’s is delighted to be hosting the WISE Girls Discovery Workshop. We actively encourage all career paths and are pleased to help promote more female talent in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.”