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HS2 reaches out to female students to help girls into engineering careers

4 min read

23 June 2015

Former deputy editor

To mark 23 June's National Women in Engineering day, female engineers from the High Speed 2 (HS2) railway project are visiting students to explain that being a woman isn't a barrier in an attempt to encourage them to embrace the industry as a career path.

Real Business’ First Women Awards ceremony on 15 June demonstrated that engineering can indeed be rewarding for women. Amanda White, former HS2 engineer and the current head of rail at Transport for Greater Manchester, took home the Young Achiever trophy.

While the move from HS2 is in keeping with National Women in Engineering Day, the organisation also runs a science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) inspiration programme and decided to combine the two.

Female engineers have been sent to speak to students at The Cavendish School in Hemel Hempstead and will talk to 40 girls in year nine ahead of starting GCSEs in year ten.

In partnership with independent charity The Smallpeice Trust, which promotes engineering careers to young people, HS2’s skilled females will talk to pupils about the benefits and uses of STEM in order to encourage the engineering sector as an exciting place to work.

Together the duo has delivered 50 STEM workshops to date and by the end of the year, around 2,800 students will have been engaged, with 54 per cent of them represented by girls.

“Our female ambassadors are working to spread the message that being a woman is not a barrier to working in the rail industry,” said Beth West, HS2 commercial director.

“HS2 is a 21st century project and we want to lead by example on diversity. We strongly believe in the value of women in the workforce and currently a third of our engineers and our executive team are female. We will build on that along with the wider industry, where only six per cent of the engineering workforce is female.”

Read more on gender inequality in the workplace:

In keeping with diversity, there are certain factors that are taken into consideration for schools to earn a visit. It must have a higher than average number of students eligible for free schools meals, lower than average percentage of pupils achieving five A*-C GCSEs and a high percentage of youngsters where English isn’t their first language.

Students are able to speak to engineers in speed networking sessions that provide the opportunity to find out the paths they took to get where they are and what the job involves.

Practical activities are also part of the workshop to inspire pupils to think like engineers and understand practical uses for the skills.

Tariq Ahmad, transport minister,added: “Women currently make up a tiny proportion of our surveyors, engineers and construction professionals. We need to overhaul the sector’s image, so engineering and construction are a more attractive career option for women. A diverse workforce means a more successful workforce, which is why I am backing this campaign.”

Simon Kirby, HS2 CEO, concluded: “Over the life of the project HS2 will be offering 2,000 apprenticeships to young people and 100,000 jobs. 75 per cent of students have a better idea about how academic choices affect their career path after speaking with an employer.

“Days like today are really important as we need young qualified people to move into these roles and drive forward our future infrastructure development.”

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