Babcock chief warns Plymouth’s women engineers of UK recruitment crisis

STEM Visit to Devonport Dockyard. Images courtesy of The Herald, who retain all copyright.

STEM Visit to Devonport Dockyard. Images courtesy of The Herald, who retain all copyright.

In an article in Friday’s Plymouth Herald, William Telford reported on a Women in STEM Plymouth event hosted by international engineering giant Babcock.

Attended by more than 50 women engineers and scientists, who were given a tour of Devonport Dockyard and the naval base, the event culminated with presentations by Lt Emma Boswell (one of the Royal Navy’s first female submariners) and John Howie, Managing Director of Babcock’s Naval Marine division.

Emma spoke about the opportunities she has had in the Royal Navy and how becoming a submariner has been rewarding challenge. John focused on how important STEM subjects are for the nation and what a great opportunity they present for women: “STEM qualifications can open the doors to fulfilling and well-paid careers for boys and girls, but young people, parents and teachers are often not aware of this. We need to break down the perception that STEM subjects and particularly engineering is masculine – 44 per cent of all STEM educators interviewed by Engineering UK said engineering was an undesirable career for female students because it is seen as a career for men. More boys than girls have been reported to have been encouraged to think about engineering as a career, by their parents.”

John continued, focusing on the issue of there being not enough engineers to meet demand: “87,000 graduate level engineers are needed each year between now and 2020, but the higher education system is currently only producing 46,000, which suggests there is a long way to go to fill this potential skills gap. Women make up only 6% of UK engineers, so there is great opportunity to increase numbers through attracting more women into engineering.”

Launched last September, Women in STEM Plymouth provides networking opportunities for women working in STEM areas. The network also aims to encourage young women into STEM careers by tackling gender stereotypes and imbalances within STEM-related professions and careers, as well as broadening awareness of the disciplines a STEM career can offer and how women can contribute.

Women in STEM Plymouth chair Emma O’Mara said: “This latest event gave our members valuable insight into the work opportunities available under the STEM umbrella.”

The group is particularly keen to engage people who can act as STEM “ambassadors”, role-models who will visit schools and other educational establishments to encourage female students to consider STEM-based careers.

The next event is aimed at communicating STEM opportunities direct to young people through a careers fair with the aim of tackling gender stereotypes. Anyone interested in exhibiting or attending should contact womeninstemplymouth@gmail.com

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