There is no doubt that the number of women pursuing careers in engineering in the UK is on the rise. A recent survey by EngineeringUK found that there are now 936,000 women employed in the industry – which is almost two thirds more than we had in 2010.
While this is a significant increase, it only represents 16.5% of the total engineering workforce. There is still a lot to do if we want to redress that imbalance. And this is why Envair Technology took part in this year’s Women’s Engineering Society’s work shadowing scheme.
The initiative gives young women access to real working environments and an opportunity to get advice from experienced engineers about starting their career journey.
Entering the industry
I’m one of those engineers, and I know first-hand how hard it can be for women to forge a career in engineering without schemes such as this. I studied civil engineering in my native Bulgaria and gained a degree from the Technical University of Varna. But after relocating to the UK with my family, I found my English was not developed enough to take on a technical engineering role.
I worked in administration for a long time following that move but my dream of working in engineering never left me. So, in my forties, I took the decision to go back to college and qualify as a mechanical engineer. This was not an easy option. Completing the course required me to juggle family commitments, accept a pay cut and take out a loan to pay for fees.
It crossed my mind on more than one occasion that I should just give up on the idea. That was until I landed a place on an apprenticeship scheme in advanced manufacturing engineering. As it turned out, I was probably as old as many of my classmates’ parents, and one of only three women on the scheme – but it was the break I needed. And, ultimately, it resulted in me gaining my job in design engineering here at Envair Technology.
That’s why I was so keen to get involved in this work shadowing programme. If it can open a door that helps other women enter the industry, I want to get on board.
Two female students recently completed work shadowing days with us at Envair Technology: Nicole, an A-level student in Year 12, and Gabriella, who is an undergraduate in biochemistry at the University of Birmingham. The programme we provided gave them an opportunity to work on a project to create a mobile phone holder, from concept through to finished product.