Women in Engineering and Energy Event - to engineer means to "make things happen"

Working offshore on an oil rig: designing and testing cosmetic bottles: designing and producing dosage counters for medical products not to mention designing aeroplanes for BAE and becoming a commanding officer for the RAF or overseeing the complete design and architecture of building services for contemporary premises or generating electricity with EDF...

These are just a handful of the myriad applications of 'engineering' that our four Year 10 pupils experienced at the John Innes Centre in Norwich on June 23rd. During the keynote address in the stunning auditorium, from Chloe Hill MP for Norwich North, several myths were dispelled and the key messages were clear:  

  • that young women must be prepared to be confident leaders to motivate their peers (the House of Commons comprises 30% women):
  • young women must not be afraid to challenge expecations and provide inspiration:
  • and even though the oil and gas industires are dominated by men, there are no barriers to stand in the path of women in those industries.

Chloe went on to summarise that schools need to make 'engineering' more understood and in doing so make it more

of an attractive career option for young women.

Pupils met Charlotte Baker from RAF Marham, Helen Cavill a Chartered Engineer from M&H Plastics and Scarlett Mummery a.k.a. Offshore Blondie all of whom provided engaging, witty and inspirational stories about their own choices to follow careers in very different aspects of engineering.

They all made it very apparent that in today's workplace, engineers maintain and improve living standards and the quality of life in society in one way or another. They, along with all the employment representatives in the 'Marketplace Activities' showed how engineering is not just about oily machinery, boiler suits and steel toe-caps; it influences the water we drink, the buildings we live and work in, the products we create, the medical products and services we benefit from not to mention the vehicles and appliances we rely on to enjoy the comfortable and convenient lives we lead.

As a woman who used to work in the energy sector long before working in education Mrs Clarke from Stradbroke High School joined Angela Gant from Connect Education and Business to provide closing remarks; success in engineering is rather like success in school - it is about problem -solving, continuous improvement and most importantly - asking questions.  

During the day, as well as meeting employers and inspirational role models, pupils also enjoyed delicious lunch in the John Innes Centre and watched a number of demonstrations which helped them to understand how they could begin a career in engineering and where it could take them in the future.                                                                                                       

In reviewing the event Courtney Debenham and Skye Lintott captured in their own words what they had learned from the day.     

Courtney said " Before going to the event I wasn't so sure whether I would enjoy it...but now I have been I can say that I really enjoyed it and really think more ladies should have attended as it was a fantastic experience. I found out that there isn't just one sort of engineering that you could do; how there is a massive selection such as Offshore Blondie. Being an engineer means that you get to try out new things, travel and meet new friends. I would just like to say that I am very thankful that the organisers put this event on for all the schools that came and I hope next year they do the same so that pupils in year 9 can also experience what we experienced and so that they know we need more women to do engineering , but also that it is a fun thing to do. I believe we can all achieve anything if we just believe and that women have a huge chance to create things that have not even been thought about and that they can change the future."                                                                                                                        

Skye commented that " My eyes were certainly opened to the lack of females ...and it was inspiring to feel the passion radiating out of the wonderful women that we met throughout the day. It was obvious that they loved their jobs, and this made a deep impression in us all, to follow our dreams through, no matter who stands up to us. As one lady put it, the barriers are only there for us to jump over. By inviting a variety of STEM and energy associated employers to set up little stalls and workshops, we met some truly interesting people who had fascinating jobs. The oils and gas industry, building service engineers and offshore engineers were just tasters of the range of possibilities that women have. They taught us not to be intimidated by 'male-dominated, dirty boiler-suited stereotypes' of engineers but to embrace the amazing potential that STEM subjects could lead to - whether it is through apprenticeships or other qualifications - there are lots of different options.    

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