SOE News

Engineering appealing to many young women

23rd Jun 2017

For Kelsie Dugmore, SOE member and Apprentice Mechanic at Arriva UK Bus, her path into engineering has not been a conventional one, but having now found her calling, she wants to inspire other young women to follow suit.

For many women engineers in the UK, the route to more advanced roles has been a difficult one, yet the outlook is slowly changing, and industry is facing up to the harsh realities of an engineering skills shortage emphasised by a sector represented by only 9% of women in the UK.

Kelsie, 24, a competitor in the IRTE Skills Challenge 2017, decided two years ago that she wanted a career change and explored a route into engineering through an apprenticeship, before securing a position with Arriva UK Bus.

With a cultural awareness and a greater understanding of how a gender diverse workforce helps businesses prosper, has come a renewed push in guiding more women to find a career in engineering, and whilst the figures remain low, Kelsie, like many of her peers, wants to make the path towards engineering easier for the next generation.

Despite the attention the cause has received, with groups such as the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) raising considerable awareness, Kelsie believes there is more to be done to encourage young women to consider engineering as a profession.

Reflecting on the root cause of both the engineering skills shortage and the UK’s position as having the lowest number of female engineering professions in Europe, Kelsie said: “I did want to do something like it in school. There were just not options for engineering or a route such as car mechanics. If you were in higher sets you were encouraged to do A-Levels - you were pushed along those routes. School and college preached university and more along the theory route. It was never really an option that, maybe, you should do an apprenticeship or consider a vocational skill - it was literally never mentioned.”

By offering support and advice, perhaps in the form of a mentor, more young women would realise what options are available to them when finishing school, according to Kelsie.

“I would say young women would definitely benefit from a mentor, male or female. Having someone experienced in the trade as a positive role model, to learn from and gain valuable experience with, in my opinion is the best way to learn,” said Kelsie.

“Girls at a young age think, ‘well I don’t know anyone who does that’ and they’re not sure if they can do it. Maybe they have not seen another woman do it, and they don’t know who to ask.

“The WES does have the networks out there, and there are forums – I can leave my details and connect with young women who want to know about my job. There are pages of them, in every aspect of STEM you can think of, with all these different branches of engineering, so the information is out there now," said Kelsie.

Research shows that most women who choose to pursue this career are pleased they did so. According to WES, a survey of 300 female engineers conducted by the Royal Academy of Engineering revealed that 84% were either ‘happy’ or ‘extremely happy’ with their career choice.

Whilst Kelsie is supportive of development groups working with girls from a young age, she believes that it is important that this work is done in the right way, without overcomplicating matters.

“Something needs to be done at school level - even at primary school level. Everybody learns differently, and progresses differently - some people are hands on people, some learn visually, and there’s a massive difference in that,” said Kelsie.

“I don’t think people realise how versatile engineering is, with all the different branches you can go into. I think it can be seen as a dead-end. When I left school, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I decided on a business diploma, because I thought it would cover so many avenues. Engineering should be a go-to subject because it’s so broad,” said Kelsie.

Another survey conducted by RAEng shows that 64% of engineering employers say a shortage of engineers in the UK is a threat to their business.

“There are people who specialise in hydraulic brake systems, welding, engine rebuild – there’s so much to it - it’s not just mechanics and it’s not just engineering. There’s a lot more to it and the variation needs to be spoken about too.

“People need to realise that it is very open and you can branch out and move in different directions quite easily. It can be whatever you want it to be,” said Kelsie.

With many organisations struggling to employ graduates with the skills they need, those trained through an apprenticeship with practical and theoretical skills are likely to be much sought after in the coming years.

“When you do the apprenticeship, you study for the diploma at college and the NVQ in the workplace. The NVQ proves that I can physically do it; it proves I’ve done the job a number of times and I’m competent, so if I wanted to go and do a desk job or more of a managerial job, I can prove that I know what I am talking about,” said Kelsie.

“I’ve still got one year left at college, starting level three in September. I’m doing a more varied role now, with more in-depth write-ups. As far as the future goes, I’m not sure. I’m just really enjoying what I do," said Kelsie.

International Women in Engineering Day is an annual event taking place on June 23.

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