Newcastle College celebrated International Women in Engineering Day (IWED) on 23 June, celebrating students who have gone on to make sparks in the industry in a bid to inspire a future generation.
Libby Williams, currently studying Civil Engineering at Newcastle College said: “I didn’t think about studying engineering until we went on a school trip to hear some women talk about working in the industry. It gave me the confidence to study what I was passionate about although I was apprehensive as I thought I would get treated differently, but that hasn’t been the case. It’s new and challenging every day and I know that I’ll use these skills for life.”
Former student Amanda left Newcastle College in 2007 after gaining a BTEC National Diploma in Construction and is now working as a Marine Engineer.
Amanda commented: “My studies at Newcastle College were the foundation of the skills I needed to go on to university and then work as a Marine Engineer. My career has taken on so many different forms since leaving the College, including structural consultancy, and planning and permitting of wind turbines. The opportunities are truly endless.”
For any female students worried about entering the sector, Amanda added: “Since entering the sector, I feel like I’ve noticed a shift in perceptions. I am valued for my ideas, thoughts and work ethic – rather than feeling singled out because of my gender. I would encourage any girl, especially if you enjoy logical thinking and problem solving, to consider engineering.”
Not only are Newcastle College students going on to varied and interesting careers; the industry also opens the opportunity to change the world.
Alex, former student and Asset Performance Advisor at the Environment Agency said: “The industry is constantly changing and there’s always the opportunity to learn something new. Net carbon has now moved to the top of everyone’s agendas. It’s going to be a huge challenge but it’s exciting to know that you could play a part in making the world a better, more efficient place.”
Angela Baird, Programme Leader in Rail Engineering at Newcastle College, said: “It’s really important that we share success stories and use IWED to give women’s voices in the industry a platform. The reality is that the number of female engineers is still small, so it’s likely that a young girl hasn’t met a female engineer. Representation matters and identifying with someone in a career that you hadn’t considered could change the course of someone’s future by giving them confidence in their own abilities.
Wherever you start in engineering, you develop a range of transferable skills. As you progress in your studies, you’re introduced to different fields and disciplines and new innovations. You’re almost spoilt for choice with where you can take your career. You’ll also get hands-on experience at the facilities, so you feel prepared for the workplace as soon as you leave.”
Although the number of girls enquiring to study engineering at the College is increasing, data from Engineering UK shows that women still only make up 12.37% of all engineers in the UK, less than 18% of higher apprentices in engineering and manufacturing, and just 7.4% of all engineering apprentices.
Scott Bullock, Principal at Newcastle College said: “We’re immensely proud of what we have to offer at the College and we want to ensure that no one feels excluded from any career because of their gender. Days like IWED are important to not only act as a showcase for our facilities, but to demonstrate that education can truly open doors for everyone, and everyone should feel welcome”.
The College offers a range of engineering qualifications for students to choose from including manufacturing, aviation, automotive, rail and civil engineering and the subsea and renewable energy sector. Alongside this, the College boasts specialist facilities including its Queen's Anniversary Prize winning sites at Newcastle International Airport and its Rail and Civil Engineering Academy in Felling, Gateshead.
Employer-led learning is high on the agenda and the College has links with key industry partners such as the Port of Blyth, ORE Catapult, Newcastle International Airport and Nexus. These partnerships offer students the opportunity to learn directly from people in industry and ensures that the skills training on offer at the College is aligned with employer needs, helping to improve employability prospects for students.