Regional engineering giants look to young women to solve skills crisis

Hartlepool College of Further Education, Caterpillar, Babcock International and Gestamp Tallent are calling on young women in the region to explore a career in engineering.

Future forecasts by not for profit organisation Engineering UK suggest that from now until 2024, 265,000 newly qualified engineers will be required EVERY YEAR in the sector in order to keep up with industry demand, due to an ageing workforce.

With this massive skills shortage in the sector, one female engineer in Teesside feels that more must be done immediately to expose young women to engineering as a career.

Helen Gott, Engineering Lecturer at Hartlepool College, said: “One of the main issues with young women getting in to the engineering industry is that they can’t identify with the careers available. Many girls that come to us know very little about the different paths that engineering creates, largely because they aren’t careers that they can directly relate to.

“Unless they have family members who have worked in engineering roles, they are unlikely to have any knowledge of the sector and enrolling on a course or an apprenticeship is often a bit of a leap of faith.”

Engineering continues to stand out as a majorly male-dominated industry, and according to research by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers women currently make up only 9% of engineers in the UK.

If the sector is to achieve its growth potential, the industry needs to find a way to attract more women into the profession.

Hartlepool College of Further Education is marking Women in Engineering Day this Friday (June 23) by inviting 75 female Year 9 and10 pupils from across Hartlepool to an engineering taster day at the College, where they will hear from other female students and graduates and also undertake practical challenges to give them a flavour of a potential new career path.

And businesses from across Teesside are striving to proactively change perceptions of engineering as a career and encourage young girls to enrol on apprenticeship courses.

Sarah Lackenby is a mechanical engineering apprentice at Hartlepool College of Further Education, who has been working as an apprentice inspector at Altec Engineering since 2015. Sarah said: “There aren’t as many female role models in engineering as there are in other areas such as fashion and health and beauty. A good handful of my friends didn’t follow me into engineering because they wanted to take after their role models, women who are fashionistas, make-up artists, or models.

“It all starts from an early age where little girls follow classic female stereotypes which shape their personalities and interests. Usually they play with dolls and make-up, and enjoy dressing up, you rarely see them playing with Lego, building games or Meccano. It’s the exact opposite with boys which introduces the question, why do so few young males choose to go into hair and beauty or fashion?

“My advice to other young women considering engineering as a career would be to go for it and don’t hold back, you may be the other female apprentice like I was, or there may be only two girls in your class of 20+, but it really doesn’t matter, the college will support you to ensure you succeed.”

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