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Jobs for the Girls - initiative launched to help close technical skills gap

apprenticeship-toolkit-logo with websiteA toolkit has been launched to help businesses close the skills gap in the construction, engineering, technology and manufacturing sectors by recruiting women and girls into the sector through apprenticeships.

WISE, which campaigns to get more women into STEM careers, the engineering skills body Semta and the Institution of Civil Engineers have formed a partnership to launch the apprenticeship toolkit for businesses.

Launching the toolkit at the Institution of Engineering and Technology’s conference to mark International National Women in Engineering Day in Birmingham, WISE CEO Helen Wollaston hailed it as a step change for business saying: “Employers tell us they would employ women in technical roles if only they would apply. A few simple changes to how roles are described and marketed makes all the difference. We put the toolkit together to share examples of what others have done. This isn’t just about encouraging girls to consider a STEM apprenticeship. We would like to see employers offer apprenticeships to women of any age who want the opportunity to do something different – including women they already employ.”

The toolkit contains information, tips, case studies and useful resources – it is intended to be a guide, leading businesses from their first steps in reaching out to women and girls, throughout their apprenticeships and on to their future careers as well. One of the companies featured is global engineering firm Babcock, Archie Bethel, CEO of Babcock International Group said:

“We understand the importance of encouraging and inspiring women to lead fulfilling careers in engineering. It’s not about being nice. A diverse workforce drives business performance, so an increase in women choosing STEM careers means a wider talent pool for the industry, and brings a broader perspective to our business.

“Building on our long-standing relationship with WISE and the success of previous collaborations, such as the People Like Me project, the Apprenticeship toolkit is a valuable asset to employers striving to increase diversity in their workforce.”

James Kidd, CEO, AVEVA explained: “As a world leader in Engineering, Design and Information Management software, it’s critical for AVEVA to obtain the right skills and talent in a highly competitive market. AVEVA has committed to the WISE Ten Steps to further support women in STEM careers. In addition, we have a growing, award-winning Apprenticeship Programme that helps us to find and develop young professionals, a key ingredient to our future success. AVEVA is very pleased to support the WISE Apprenticeship Toolkit.”

Despite recent growth in the number of apprenticeships, with 3 million new apprentices since 2010, the number of women taking up apprenticeships in technical roles like engineering and technology related fields has remained much lower.

Research shows that while there were 13000 more women in technical roles last year than previously, women still only make up 21% of core STEM employees. And only 17% in ICT apprentice graduates, 8% of engineering apprentice graduates and 2% of construction graduates were women.

One apprentice who has succeeded in the industry and thinks the toolkit will do a lot to encourage other young women to take on an apprenticeship is Millie Coombes from Plymouth, who is currently a rail telecoms apprentices with Atkins. Talking about her experiences, she said:

“I have thoroughly enjoyed the opportunities and work that being a STEM apprentice in the transport sector has given me. I’ve been able to take part in a number of high profile rail projects as well as a number of smaller projects. It has given me a real sense of purpose and contribution to the world I live in, something I really want to advocate with the younger generations.

“Being the only girl in my class has added to my drive to help increase the numbers of women in STEM careers. My own route showed me that the encouragement for women to go into sectors like rail or engineering needs to be integrated into the lives of girls at a younger age. I believe that cooperation between education and the professional world can help inspire the younger generation and create role models so more girls can think ‘that could be me’.”

Talking about why these figures remain so low for women and girls taking up apprenticeships in STEM sectors, Ann Watson, Chief Executive at Semta Group said:

“There is still a view that apprenticeships, especially in engineering and other technical fields, aren’t for girls.

“That’s just nonsense and we know from the work Semta has done that women and girls working in STEM apprenticeships almost universally love their jobs, have a great experience and are in high demand!

“That’s why the toolkit is so important – because businesses know this but are often stuck on how to reach out and attract women and girls into often male-dominated industries. We’ve put a step by step plan together to support their efforts.”

Nick Baveystock, Director General of the Institution of Civil Engineers said: “We know that the skills gap presents a huge challenge for the UK. The toolkit is designed to help using real world examples from businesses we’ve been working with. We’ve got the expertise and experience to help set out those long term strategies and I’d encourage any company facing skills shortages or taking on apprentices to get in touch and find out how we can work together.”

Click here to access the free toolkit