On the 25th February, 2015 the Government announced two new employer-led pilot projects which will open up new routes into engineering for women as well as increase their potential to advance in engineering careers.

The two projects will be run by British-based global engineering consultancies WS Atkins and Hyder Consulting putting a £208,000 pot of joint Government and private money aside to use, setting up new skills programmes for new and former women engineers and improve the representation of women in their UK workforces.

Skills Minister Nick Boles said:

'With UK manufacturing on the up and major upgrades to our transport links and infrastructure underway, there’s been no better time to enter an engineering career. To keep the UK at the forefront of engineering innovation we need the skills of the whole population and that is why it is vital to capitalise on the contribution of women to the sector. I’m delighted to see WS Atkins and Hyder Consulting lead by example, and urge other employers to do the same.’

The two companies were chosen from a competitive tender under the Government’s Employer Ownership of Skills Fund, which provides a fast and simple grant offer for businesses. The projects receiving funding are:

  • WS Atkins will support the training of 100 women to level three qualifications to aid their return to engineering after a break in their careers
  • Hyder Consultancy is to support the training of 80 female engineers up to level four (degree equivalent) standards to help them advance their careers

Professor Dr Uwe Krueger, Chief Executive Officer of Atkins said:

‘Women, in particular, are hugely underrepresented in the design and engineering sector so initiatives which help inspire, attract and retain talented people or to assist them progress in their careers will make a real and tangible difference. We know that returning to work after maternity leave or moving to flexible working to accommodate a young family can be a struggle, and by investing in this programme we will make it easier for parents to manage their work/life balance and therefore continue their career development.’

The 'Women in Engineering' fund is a part of the Government’s response to the Perkins Review of Engineering Skills published in November 2013, which noted the positive impact an increasing base of engineers would have on the UK economy. Little wonder, as the shortage of engineers currently stands at over 55,000 people and will only increase as new technologies move into production. Some predict the deficit could double in the next 5 years and represents a brewing crisis for UK manufacturing.

Whilst the schemes are commendable, they need to represent the spear tip of a wider strategy. The shortage of engineers in this country is a real problem, effecting military aviation, defence contractors and aerospace firms to name but three sectors. There must be more done at an educational level to make engineering, or any profession for that matter, a viable career for both genders. It's been established beyond reasonable doubt that the toys children play with have a huge influence over their career choices. Moreover educational toys are overwhelmingly targeted at boys, and those targeted at girls being focussed on braiding and beads over science and history.​