British industry still suffers from a lack of engineers. Such is the concern that business secretary Vince Cable believes the shortage provides a serious threat to recovery. In particular, Cable highlighted the lack of women currently working or actively seeking employment in the British engineering industry.
Only 8% of British engineers are women, which is the lowest proportion in Europe. Compare that with Germany (15%), Sweden (25%) and top-performing Latvia (30%) and it’s easy to see why there is such deep-seated concern.
Research suggests the problem starts long before young people choose a career with many youngsters ditching maths and science as soon as they can. It’s a trend especially marked for girls.
A recent article in the Sheffield Star highlighted the concern. The newspaper reported that only 14 per cent of students at the new University Technical College, are girls. At the newly opened training centre at the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, just four of the 160 engineering apprentices are female.
The charity EngineeringUK has found that, careers information, advice and guidance in some cases re-inforces gender stereotypes resulting in girls ruling themselves out of engineering careers.
“Engineering is about designing, making and creating the innovative products that shape our world whether that’s artificial limbs, fashion and food or medicine, music and computers. It offers an exciting career choice for girls as well as boys, but has historically suffered from an outdated image,” said Nick Crew, Principal of UTC Sheffield.
Education and campaigners in the city are rallying to tackle the position. Two groups at Sheffield Hallam University – Women in Engineering, Science and Technology (WEST) and Women in Science Engineering and Technology (WiSET) run activities, projects and give talks in schools and colleges in the hope of encouraging more females to consider studying those subjects.
At PRV we believe we need to grab children’s interest in engineering early and last year played host to 50 primary school children at our premises.
What’s your view on schools encouraging girls to follow a career in engineering? Do you think we should be doing more?