According to last year’s figures from EngineeringUK, women still make up only 16.5 per cent of the engineering workforce. While that is a healthy six percentage point rise since 2010 and represents progress, many view rectifying the gender imbalance as one of the key opportunities for meeting our skills needs in the future.
One programme aimed at sparking the interest of girls in key stage 4 (14 to 16 years old) and sixth-formers has concluded for 2023 and has doubled the take-up – there were 465 participants – from the previous year.
The UK Electronic Skills Foundation’s (UKESF’s) Girls into Electronics programme, in collaboration with Apple, was conducted at many of the UK’s leading universities and involved participation from over 100 schools.
The initiative is part of the UKESF’s wider work to address the skills shortage in the electronics sector, while also tackling the gender imbalance.
Stewart Edmondson, CEO at UKESF, said: “We’re thrilled at the success of this year’s Girls into Electronics programme. To more than double the number of female students participating is an amazing achievement. The UKESF is striving to improve diversity and inclusion in the electronics sector so we’re also pleased to announce that nearly half of the students participating were from ethnic minority backgrounds.”
At the heart of the programme is a one-day event at a leading UK university. Almost all participants (97%) thought the event at their host university was good or excellent. During the day, participants found out all about electronics and studying the subject at university, and enjoyed an opportunity to get hands-on with electronics kits. The students heard from female graduates working in the electronics sector and, this year, engineers from Apple also shared their experience working on hardware technology.
Making the switch
“Education can be a powerful force for equity, and help provide young women with the tools and opportunity to pursue a rewarding career in engineering,” said Mari-Anne Chiromo, Apple inclusion and diversity partnerships lead for Europe, the Middle East, India and Africa. “We’re thrilled to have worked with the UKESF on this important initiative, encouraging more women from all backgrounds to study electronic engineering and increase diverse representation in the field.”
Alistair Clarke, a teacher from Hamstead Hall Academy in Birmingham, said: “It was a fantastic event at Aston University. One of the girls is now considering switching from a dentistry pathway to an electronics course. The whole team behind Girls into Electronics made a great impression.”
One participant commented: “The course was so insightful and made me consider a sector which I hadn’t necessarily thought about before. It was amazing talking to so many inspirational women from the electronics industry.”
Despite such activities encouraging an engineering pathway into university, the demand for employable graduates is currently outstripping supply. UCAS figures show that only 3,245 students enrolled on degrees in electronic and electrical engineering in the UK in 2021, of whom as few as 335 were female.
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