Inspiring a New Generation of Engineering Talent
As part of the Leicester Business Festival 2018, I was invited to share my opinions at a women in construction roundtable event. I remain incredibly passionate about encouraging students, both male and female, into any STEM related job as well as being an advocate for structural engineering as a creative and rewarding career path.
As well as discussing my experience and the gender pay gap that exists in construction, and many other industries, we talked about inspiring more young people to enter the industry in the first place. After all, unless we get females to seriously consider construction and engineering as a career, we won’t be able to improve the statistics and see more women in senior positions which is vital for closing the aforementioned gap.
I shared insights from my first experience at University open days where I noticed a difference in the way parents got involved. Fathers would often wander off and leave their daughters to ask the questions and mothers would sit and engage in the conversation. This wasn’t a case of the dads not caring – in fact, it was often the case that he was a key influence in the daughter’s choice of career by being an engineer himself. The mothers wanted to learn as much as possible about their daughter’s chosen subject because they knew very little themselves.
This led me to appreciate that the majority of girls studying engineering at University already had a good idea of what it involved and had a support network around them that would nurture that interest. This made me realise that engagement on STEM subjects needed to happen at a much younger age. After all, by the time young people are attending career fairs and applying to university, they are already starting down a path and have usually chosen the A-level subjects that will shape their decision regarding a long term career.
As a STEM ambassador, I attend as many events as I can where I get to spend time with students and help improve their understanding of engineering. I am of course very lucky that this is something my current role and Curtins allows me to do.
This year, the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) is celebrating its 200th birthday and will be hosting a STEM fair as part of Tomorrows Engineers Week. Held at the National College for High Speed Rail (NCHSR) in Birmingham pupils aged 11-16 attended the fair to learn more about what a career in engineering means and involves, and get involved with activities provided on the day.
Our team held two interactive activities for the students to physically demonstrate engineering. A human arch activity showed how stable structures work and how they can be improved, and a human cantilever bridge exercise saw the students re-enact the Forth Bridge.
Most people don’t know what being an engineer actually means and what the job entails on a day-to-day basis. To get the best people coming into the industry, it is crucial that those already working in the industry do all we can to ensure that young people understand the strengths and positives of this career path. As mentioned, it really is a creative job and yet the perception is that architecture for example, is far more artistic and innovative.
I look forward to continuing my work as a STEM ambassador, ensuring that we inspire students at an early stage of their education and create a new generation of engineering talent entering the industry over the coming years.
By Alison Horton, senior engineer