The UK has a serious shortage of people skilled in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and with females making up just 14.5% of those in engineering, encouraging more women into the sector can be an obvious part of the solution. On International Women In Engineering Day we caught up with the Aptus women in STEM to find out more.
Lynda, Surveyor/Cad Operator
Lynda is responsible for ensuring laid utility networks are accurately measured and recorded. She uses a measuring wheel or a laser measure and GPS to establish the dimensions of pipes and cables once they have been laid in trenches by our construction teams. This data is essential to produce correct ‘as-laid’ drawings of mains and services which are then passed to the design team and used to update records held by relevant parties and authorities.
Knowledge of AutoCAD (computer-aided design software), which allows users to draw and edit digital 2D and 3D designs, is essential for this role. A driving licence and a Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) Card are also necessary to go out on site visits. Lynda says Maths is helpful, and local geographical knowledge is also an asset.
Lynda’s experience highlights the changes that have taken place since she began work in the 1960s. She says career choices for girls leaving school amounted to four options: factory or shop work, typing pool and nursing. Advancements in the workplace and new policies which provide better support for families – particularly around statutory maternity leave and pay – have significantly improved the professional landscape for women.
“When I decide to retire it gives me hope for the future on how companies like Aptus will be able to benefit the young women of today.”
Charlotte, Gas Engineer
Charlotte heads up our gas department writing procedures, supervising and auditing connections, and mentoring teams. Charlotte has a thorough understanding of the gas distribution industry including digital mapping, design, planning, gas network replacement and connections construction processes as well as the multi utility sector.
Charlotte credits her aunt as an important role model and positive influence who helped her to get a foot in the door with British Gas early in her career. Her aunt pioneered workshops, conferences and training programmes which were designed to change perceptions of the industry and women’s mindsets and attitudes, encouraging them to pursue careers in gas and challenge for senior positions.
“Over the years I’ve seen women being promoted to more senior roles and being put out in the field with the operatives in many different engineering roles.”
Abigail, Trainee Street Lighting Technician
Abigail joined Aptus in 2019 as a Trainee Street Lighting Technician and is responsible for producing designs for new and existing developments across the UK. She is qualified to NVQ Level 2 in Mechanical Engineering, has a BTEC Level 3 in Engineering and a BEng Degree in Mechanical Engineering.
Abi says the only career advice she received was to ‘go to university’. She says that more discussion in schools would help to challenge industry stereotypes and encourage more women into engineering.
Evidence shows that STEM outreach helps engage young people and encourages them to consider careers in engineering. The Engineering Brand Monitor 2019 survey of more than 2,500 young people, 1,000 STEM secondary school teachers and 1800 members of the public, revealed that young people attending a STEM careers activity in the previous 12 months were three times more likely to consider a career in engineering.
“I think the main issue that puts women off working in the industry is the lack of knowledge people have about engineering and how broad it really is – it can vary from offices to workshops to laboratories, to on site works.”
Aneta, Electrical Network Design Engineer
Aneta is an experienced member of our electrical team, responsible for producing tailored network design solutions for domestic, commercial, and industrial developments. In her eight years with Aptus she says she has expanded her knowledge and gained experience and confidence working in her field.
According to 2018 data presented by the Women’s Engineering Society – which is behind International Women In Engineering Day, the UK has the lowest percentage of female engineering professionals in Europe. Aneta, who was educated in Poland and graduated from Warsaw University of Technology, says women can only affect change by speaking up and inspiring others to enter the profession.
Diversity clearly matters: a survey by McKinsey & Company found that companies are 15% more likely to perform better if they are gender diverse, while Forbes Insights found that diversity is crucial for innovation – in a global survey, 85% of corporate diversity and talent leaders agreed that “a diverse and inclusive workforce is crucial to encouraging different perspectives and ideas that drive innovation”.
“Being a female engineer used to be tougher, due to some stereotypes, but this is changing and women engineers are in much higher demand now.”
Delicia, HSQE Manager
Delicia is responsible for implementing processes to ensure our operations are conducted within stringent frameworks for Health, Safety, Quality and the Environment. This involves monitoring and managing hazards and risk both on site and in our office environments, and working with and training employees to improve health and safety standards.
Delicia studied contemporary theatre and originally planned to go into broadcasting or acting, but a summer job in the administration department of a construction company led to an opportunity to train in health and safety. Delicia has been with Aptus for several years and has helped introduce new technology to drive improvement across the business, as well as playing a key role in supporting the development of new talent in her team.
“I enjoy the fast pace, the people – every day is different with new and interesting challenges. There are some fantastic opportunities in this industry, particularly for apprentices.”
Wendy, Penrith Depot Manager
When Wendy joined the company she had no prior experience of managing a depot, or of the associated health and safety requirements. However, once Wendy was on board in an administrative role, the company quickly identified her unique skills and abilities and has supported her progression with further training and development.
“Aptus put me through all the training I needed including Fork Lift, Abrasive Wheels, SHEA, Water Hygiene and more. I’ve since been promoted to Manager.”
Lisa, Managing Director
Lisa has worked in the electricity and multi utility industries for more than 25 years and recently celebrated 10 years’ service with Aptus. Her daily responsibilities may be a long way from her work as a Chartered Electrical Engineer but her career path challenges stereotypes and highlights the diverse opportunities that are available.
However, Lisa points to a decreasing number of young people entering engineering: “We need to find a way to attract the younger generation into the engineering and electrical industries before we face a resourcing crisis.”
The Education and Skills Survey conducted by CBI/Pearson in 2015 found there are widespread difficulties in recruiting people with STEM skills at every level with 32% of companies reporting difficulties in recruiting experienced STEM staff, and 20% struggling to recruit new entrants to train as apprentices.
“You do not need to be the most academic person to have a role in the industry. As long as you have the right work ethic, apply yourself and do everything to the best of your ability then you will be rewarded.”