Redressing the balance to engineer women’s future in Sheffield

Sheffield College Olive Grove engineering students and Meadowhead School pupils prepare for their industry visit
Sheffield College Olive Grove engineering students and Meadowhead School pupils prepare for their industry visit

Girls leaving school in Sheffield are being encouraged to consider a career in engineering - as worryingly low numbers of women are entering the industry.

According to national statistics, less than 10 per cent of the UK’s engineering workforce is female, the lowest proportion in Europe, and there are also fears of a significant skills shortage across the sector.

Locally, Sheffield College has made a big investment in its offering to potential engineering students, and is working with city organisation WEST - Women in Engineering, Science and Technology - which awards annual bursaries to support those studying in traditionally male-dominated areas.

The charity recently organised a visit for college students and Meadowhead School pupils to Hope Technology Ltd, in Barnoldswick, a world leader in manufacturing bike components, including brakes, controls, lights and wheels.

The group saw computer numerical control machining, carbon fibre prototypes and laser cutters that engrave components. The pupils and students also met college alumni to find out what inspired them to study engineering.

Liz Kettle, the charity’s co-ordinator, said: “WEST is working with the college to encourage more girls and women to train and study for jobs in engineering, science, technology and construction, where there are major skills shortages.

“We are organising a series of industry visits and want to thank Hope Technology for their fantastic support and providing such an inspirational insight into the sector.”

Steve Elliott, head of learning for engineering at the college, added: “We train our students in the skills that employers need to improve their job and careers prospects and support economic growth.”

He continued: “As part of that we want to raise awareness among girls, as well as boys, about the exciting opportunities that careers in engineering offer and the fantastic industry standard facilities that we have at Olive Grove campus.”

The £6.8 million campus opened in 2015 and features a new teaching block with classrooms and workshops.

The four-storey building has a striking, ‘steel sail’ design, and added more than 2,600 square metres of new space with the refurbishing and upgrading of existing motor vehicle workshops.

Around £450,000 of new electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, motor vehicle, plumbing, heating and ventilation and construction equipment was installed there.

Former student De-lanee Ashton, aged 20, who studied mechanical engineering and is now enrolled at Sheffield Hallam University, said: “I like the idea that you can start with a blank canvas and make something from your imagination.”

The deadline to apply for the latest bursaries is this Friday. Visit www.westskills.org.uk for details.