Young women from Plymouth schools get inspired at engineering careers event hosted by Tamar Crossings and YMCA Plymouth

Over 300 young women from schools and colleges across Plymouth visited the Tamar Bridge last week for the Women in STEM ‘Engineering Her Future’ event. The vent was organised by us and our Discovery College, in conjunction with Tamar Crossings.

The event brought together engineering companies from across the region as well as inspiring women speakers talking about their fascinating career journeys, helping to inspire the next generation of girls within the sector.

“A career in engineering is much more than just getting your hands dirty – you can do lots of other stuff “– these are the views of 14 year old Alusha from Sir John Hunt Community Sports College after attending the Bridging the Tamar Visitor and Learning Centre.

“Before today I would never have even thought about a career in engineering but this has really opened my eyes to what you can do” she said.

Fellow Sir John Hunt pupil Bethany was also surprised and impressed by the range of different careers available in STEM subjects. “I came to learn more about the women’s side of engineering. This has really opened up a lot more options and pathways for me”.

The ‘Engineering Her Future’ event saw young women from Sir John Hunt, UTC Plymouth, Eggbuckland, All Saints, Tor Bridge, Notre Dame, and Discovery College visit the Tamar Bridge to learn about careers in engineering from a range of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) businesses, educational and training providers. 

As well as Tamar Crossings, these included the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) South West, Hoare Lea, Aecom, Babcock International, Ward Williams Associates, City College Plymouth and Cornwall College.

The event was held on June 21st as part of this year’s International Women in Engineering Day activities. Celebrated around the world on 23 June to honour women in the field of engineering, the day focuses on raising the profile of women who are changing the field of engineering one degree at a time. 

“YMCA Plymouth conducted a survey with over 1,000 young people who said they were unsure about their career aspirations,” said Sarah Newberry from YMCA Plymouth. 

“This included many young women.  We wanted to create an event that would inspire and raise their aspirations and encourage them to think about careers in engineering. “

As well as visiting the learning centre and walking onto the iconic Tamar Bridge, students had the opportunity to tackle a range of practical activities, including wiring plugs, building towers and model bridges, learning about water pressure and plumbing, wiring remote control cars and discovering how the Torpoint ferries work.

They also heard stories from women already working in engineering and other STEM careers.  Guest speakers included Samantha Jackman from Boost Innovations, Leah Jarvis, Principal Public Health Engineer at Hoare Lea.

“The response from the young people taking part was fantastic “ said Sarah.  “Being able to talk to global companies about the work they do and listening to young female entrepreneurs explaining about their journeys showed them that careers in engineering today can be very different from the traditional image of hi vis and hard hats”.

“It was great to have the opportunity to host the Women in STEM event in partnership with YMCA for the second year running “ said Tamar Bridge Manager Coral Jonas.  “Tamar Crossings is responsible for managing the Tamar Bridge and the Torpoint Ferry, both of which feature a number of STEM related careers. 

“We know that many young people are not aware of the incredible range of jobs available in engineering and other STEM subjects. I am delighted that Alusha and Bethany are now thinking about careers in engineering and hope that the Day has encouraged other young women to follow their example”.

Rachel Barrows from the Plymouth Engineering Skills Centre, part of Cornwall College, also welcomed the opportunity to talk to young people about careers in STEM subjects and engineering. ” There is a real lack of female engineers in the workforce and we really need to drive up these numbers “she said.  “Women can be a great source of skills and we need to bring more females into this sector”.

Andy Smith, from VolkerLaser, completely agrees.  “We have a huge skills shortage in the UK construction industry and we need to encourage the next generation to join this sector. Whilst previously it was harder for women to work in construction, this is changing, providing a fair and inclusive environment for all employees. “

Aurora, a student at All Saints Academy who has always enjoyed engineering, certainly hopes so. “I came to the event to find out about more options and pathways to careers in STEM” she said. ”By talking with companies such as Babcock I have learnt how women can become more active in STEM and how we can take a more active role in STEM communities”.

“This will certainly help me to choose my future career”.

For anyone who missed the event and is interested in getting into a STEM career, YMCA has put together a free guide full of tips and advice that can be downloaded here.