Industry report urges greater gender diversity

A new report launched in Parliament this week sets out the path to overcoming the sector’s looming skills crisis by encouraging more women to start their career in engineering.

The new report from employer-led skills organisation, Semta – The Engineering Skills for the Future report – highlights the importance of reaching a more balanced gender diversity within industry.

Ann Watson, chief executive, Semta.
Ann Watson, chief executive, Semta.

This is of particular importance in the context of Brexit, according to Semta CEO Ann Watson, as the nation will find it more difficult to source potential employees from overseas over the coming months and years.

The report also highlights that female engineers are more likely than their male colleagues to encourage people to enter the sector because it offers the prospect of interesting work; and are less likely to focus on career prospects and the potential to earn while learning through an apprenticeship or sponsored degree.

Among the report’s recommendations is a plea to education and industry “not to discount any of the people around us” as potential engineers – as a career in the sector simply may not have previously been sold to them effectively.

Watson explained: “When we conducted this research, we were never expecting to write a report about gender diversity – and there is lots of other interesting material in the Engineering Skills for the Future report too.

“However, without narrowing the engineering gender gap, there’s simply no way we will ever be able to recruit the engineer’s employers need. If our sector’s skills needs aren’t met, the economy as a whole will suffer and we’ll all be worse off.

“Despite a huge effort by employers to address the gender issue, just 3% of engineering apprenticeships are started by women. We need to ask whether we’re using the right messages to encourage women to enter the sector.

It’s hoped the report will provoke politicians, employers, engineers and non-engineers alike with a vital steer on what they can do to help, as Watson concluded, “Not fixing this problem is simply not an option.”

Engineering Skills for the Future is published in the wake of a hugely impressive female performance at the annual Skills Show, where six of the seven female entrants into engineering competition finals (86%) walked away with medals.

Recent research from WorldSkills UK also revealed that 93% of parents would be happy to support their child going in to a career not usually associated with their gender.