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Let’s Get More Women Into Engineering – an International Women’s Day plea from training provider DTL

Attracting more
women into construction and engineering must become a higher priority for
government and employers, urges Develop Training Ltd (DTL).

The training company says
redressing the gender imbalance is not just desirable from an ideological
viewpoint but also a means of helping to tackle the chronic skills shortage
afflicting the industry. Two thirds of employers say a shortage of engineers is
a threat to their business.

DTL, whose customers
include household names in the utilities and energy sectors, highlighted the
issue to coincide with International Women’s Day on Friday March 8.

This year, International
Women’s Day kicks off a year-long campaign with the theme #BalanceForBetter.
Organisers say: “Balance is not a women’s issue, it’s a business issue. The
race is on for the gender-balanced boardroom, a gender-balanced government, a
gender-balance of employees… Gender balance is essential for economies and
communities to thrive.”

John Kerr, DTL’s Director
of Education & Training, said: “The industries we serve are among the most
male-dominated in the country. Only nine per cent of the UK’s engineering
workforce is female, and we have the lowest percentage of female engineering
professionals in Europe.”

He said the challenges
included improving the way construction and engineering were portrayed in
schools, encouraging girls and young women to study engineering-related
subjects and changing perceptions of working in the industry.

“In many ways, the
obstacles to bringing more women into the sector are the same as we face in
attracting young people,” said Mr Kerr. “The industry offers well-paid, secure
and skilled work with great career prospects, but it still encounters
prejudiced ideas of dirty manual labour. There are a number of excellent
initiatives to attract women into engineering and construction, and some great
role models, and we hope that broader changes in society will also play a part
in breaking down barriers. We support International Women’s Day and the Balance
For Better campaign in their efforts to make a difference.”

One female role model is
DTL’s own Nicola Smith, who swapped life as a stockbroker to become an
engineer.

Nicola has been a Lecturer
in Smart Meter installation with DTL since February 2017, passing on the skills
and knowledge she developed during her time as a hands-on installer to others.
Having started work as a cashier for a building society, she

quickly progressed in the
financial services sector, eventually becoming a stockbroker based in London’s
Canary Wharf, but she had a nagging feeling that she wanted to do something
else.

At age 19, she applied for
a mechanics course, but the man she spoke to about it put her off. Years later,
when an apprenticeship at British Gas came up, she grabbed the opportunity.

“At that time British Gas
were one of the few companies offering to pay people while they learned,”
Nicola recalls. “Fortunately, many more companies offer apprenticeships today.”

Nicola said she was
completely accepted by her team-mates, but she had to challenge public
perceptions that engineers were men. “Customers would say to me ‘but when will
the engineer be here?’ and I’d have to explain that I was the engineer,” she
says.

Nicola hopes that at DTL,
she can play a part in encouraging women into engineering: “I’m a massive
advocate of encouraging more women into the industry.  I really want to
encourage women to see it as a career choice. There’s genuinely nothing a man
can do that we can’t. With practice, you become just as capable as your male
colleagues. I really can’t shout loudly enough about it.”

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