The daughter of a colleague, in the final year of her undergraduate degree in engineering, is one of six young women holding her own on a course where male students outnumber her five to one. It’s hard to believe that, even in this day and age, it is not just on her particular course that she’s in a minority. Figures from the Royal Academy of Engineering show that in 2012/13 only one in seven engineering graduates (14.25) were female. Furthermore, only 7% of engineering professionals in the UK are women and the proportion is even lower for engineering apprentices (3%). These gender differences were highlighted recently by Dame Prof Ann Dowling (the first female president of the Royal Academy of Engineering), who also pointed out that in as many as half of mixed state schools not a single girl takes A-level physics, a gateway to engineering.
Meanwhile the UK is facing a major skills shortage in engineering. By 2022 we’ll need at least 1.82 million new engineering, science and technology professionals. Encouraging women into the STEM sector is vital in order to fulfil business needs.
This is why Herefordshire’s pioneering new university will set out to attract more women into engineering. We aim to achieve an equal ratio of male to female students and are already working with the county’s schools, colleges and educational leaders to develop a programme to support the teaching of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths and to raise the aspirations of boys and girls alike. We also intend to widen access to our foundation and honours degrees. For armed service leavers our approach will recognise the skills and experience they have acquired during military service and, for certificated engineering apprentices, there will be conversion courses that take into account their practical skills and knowledge.
To access this TALKING POINT article as a PDF click here