It’s widely accepted that the UK is suffering from a chronic shortage of engineering skills.
There are around 400,000 engineer roles unfilled nationwide, with a sizeable chunk of this shortfall in Scotland, according to the Scottish National Investment Bank.
And there is not just a lack of talent in the industry, but a gender imbalance, too.
According to the Engineering UK 2017/2018 report, fewer than 8 per cent of practicing engineers in the country are female. If we are to overcome this skills shortage, this has to change. It is up to education institutions and businesses to work together to encourage more women into a career in engineering.
At Fife College, there are three core areas we are focusing on to achieve this. These are starting from a grass roots level, creating partnerships with industry, and investing in apprenticeships.
We are up against what appears to be deep rooted societal and parental views on what a career in engineering for girls actually involves, with many having a very traditional view that it’s all about adjustable spanners and oily rags. The reality, of course, is that with the increasing use of technology, the sector is transforming in so many ways.
This perception has to change to catch up with the truth, which means adopting a new approach at a grass roots level. If we are to spark the imagination in preschool and primary school children that engineering is a rewarding career choice, schools must be better equipped and better informed in order to teach, inspire and encourage the next generation of engineers.
Universities and colleges will also need to work much more closely with schools in this regard. This is why Fife College has a team of two full-time Stem (science, technology, engineering, maths) education officers who run an extensive Engineering for Girls programme across schools in Fife and beyond with pupils aged P6 – S6. Only by igniting and sustaining an interest in Stem from an early age can we hope to overcome the skills shortage and encourage more women into engineering.
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