Talented engineers shine bright to mark International Women in Engineering Day 2018

14 June 2018

The University of Sheffield’s AMRC Training Centre is shining a light on some of its talented female engineers ahead of this year's International Women in Engineering Day.

The AMRC Training Centre, which is part of the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre Group in Rotherham, has put the spotlight on some of its accomplished engineers and apprentices who are helping to raise the bar for women in the industry.

Women make up less than 11 per cent of the engineering sector in the UK and with a large skills gap looming, along with the need for a more diverse workforce, it has never been more important to inspire and encourage more people, especially women, to choose a career in engineering.

International Women in Engineering Day, which was set up in 2014 to celebrate the 95th anniversary of the Women’s Engineering Society, is held on June 23 every year and focuses attention on the careers and technical roles awaiting young girls in engineering and also champions female engineers and their achievements.

This year’s theme is ‘Raising the Bar’, calling on people to show how they are making a positive change in what they do and how they do it – whether professionally, through studying or creating a more diverse workplace.

Apprentices and engineers at the AMRC Training Centre - which provides the practical and academic skills engineering and manufacturing companies need to compete globally – is throwing its support behind the awareness day.

AMRC Training Centre apprentice, Emma Sisman, works at Niftylift Ltd in Hoyland, Barnsley.

The 19-year-old is training to become a quality engineer. Her role involves inspecting welded and fabricated parts to check that they are at the correct standard for the business.

Emma, of Sheffield, believes diversity in engineering is extremely important as it allows people to achieve their goals and do the job they want to do without judgement.

She said events like International Women in Engineering Day help reaffirm the positive message given to young girls and women that they can make a valuable contribution to the world of engineering.

“It shows the need for women in this area and the skills and roles they can bring to the career and industry, and shows them that it is OK and you can be comfortable doing the job you want to do,” she said.

“I believe it is extremely important to encourage young girls and women to become engineers because it shows them that the industry isn't just for men but also for women as well because the majority of the time this is the issue with it being a male dominated career. But by encouraging other females to be a part of the industry that will help them to feel more comfortable.”

Emma was spurred into pursuing a career in engineering during a work placement at school.

She said: “My granddad was a welder and while I was in secondary school I was unsure about what I wanted to do, so I went and did work experience at my granddad's workplace which was an engineering firm. I was intrigued by the sort of work that was going on, which is why I wanted a career in engineering.

“I think we need more women in engineering because they will be able to help towards the improvements of different parts made and be able to continually drive and help different businesses improve in the future.”

Kathryn Jackson is the Programme Lead for the Degree Apprenticeship in Manufacturing Technology at the AMRC Training Centre. She also the chair of Nuclear AMRC’s Athena SWAN team, a scheme that recognises a commitment to advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering and related fields at universities and research institutions.

Kathryn spearheaded Nuclear AMRC’s successful application for the Athena SWAN bronze award in 2016 which acknowledges an institution has a solid foundation for eliminating gender bias and developing an inclusive culture that values all staff.

She said: “Through working for the Athena SWAN bronze award I have become increasingly aware of the barriers facing young women wanting to pursue a career in engineering.

“The Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) is leading the way for regeneration of manufacturing and we recognise that advancement in technology comes hand in hand with advancement in workplace diversity - a successful workforce employs the best talent from all demographic groups.

“I am actively involved in embedding good practice in diversity into the AMRC through the Athena SWAN team so that we can exemplify the diverse workforce that we would like to see reflected throughout the region and nationally.

“Inspiring the next generation as they form their career aspirations is central to this. We need to raise awareness that engineering is a worthwhile profession; the products that are made by engineers are central to every aspect of our lives ranging from healthcare to food and housing.

“Solutions to the world’s biggest problems, such as tackling climate change, will come from engineers. My advice to all young women is to question their own perceptions of their career aspirations and, if they haven’t done so already, consider how they could make a difference to the world through a valued career in engineering.”

Alana Brewster is an Advanced Apprentice at SNC Lavalin’s Atkins group based in Sheffield. Her role sees her involved with a variety of projects, helping her to gain a range of experience in many areas of the business. She said STEM subjects have always been an interest of hers as she enjoys practical problem solving and having an understanding of how things work.

The 18-year-old was drawn to engineering as she liked the idea that no two days would be the same and there are always new challenges ahead. She chose the route of apprentice as it allows her to gain the skills and knowledge – both practical and academic – to be successful in industry. She said hands-on training means apprentices can put skills into practice, giving them more confidence in the workplace.

Alana, of Doncaster, is keen to see more women enter the industry. She said: “Getting more women to pursue a career in engineering would not only address the clear gender gap but a diverse work force is also important for providing creativity, new ideas and solutions.

“More women in engineering would inspire confidence in other females, demonstrating that although engineering is currently dominated by men, integrating both males and females would bring a greater advantage to the engineering industry, especially since engineering skills are in such high demand.”

Events and activities are being held across the country as part of INWED to raise the profile of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) , to showcase a commitment to diversity and inspire future generations.

The AMRC STEM team will be attending the University of Sheffield’s ‘Engineering Imagination’ day on Sunday, June 17 at Sheffield Winter Garden.

The event will have a host of free activities exploring science and engineering, running from 11am-3pm. It is a chance for young minds to have fun finding out how candy floss is made, speak to robots, build a giant tetrahedron, explore virtual reality and meet engineers, scientists and students.

The AMRC STEM team will be there with a small army of robots for visitors play with, which are fully programmable, Wi-Fi enabled, walking robots designed to make learning about programming, electronics and mechanical engineering fun.

AMRC STEM and Outreach Coordinator, Cathie Barker, said: “The robots are more than just a toy as they can be used to demonstrate modern robotics in engineering. We’re also going to set up a football pitch so visitors can operate a couple of Marty’s having a kick around.”

Members from the university’s Women in Engineering Student Society will also be at the event. Society President Hemanshi Galaiya said that the society believes it is ‘raising the bar’ for women in engineering by changing perceptions and breaking stereotypes.

“We are leading by example and showing young adults, families and societies that a woman can work shoulder to shoulder with a man in any field. We are raising the bar by teaching young adults, both boys and girls alike, that the gender gap in engineering exists at present but it isn't going to stay,” said Hemanshi.  

She added: “We are raising the bar by providing equal opportunities and supporting all those that interact with us in a way that they can go out in the world and one day build a society where no gender gap exists. A society that started with small steps has now been recognised on national platforms and just like that the initiative that we have started has raised the bar across schools, universities and the industry alike."

* To contact the AMRC STEM team email stem@amrc.co.uk or call 0114 222 6241. For more details about the Engineering Imagination event, visit www.sheffield.ac.uk/faculty/engineering/wie/imagination.

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