Qualified and serving apprentices at a leading manufacturing company in Hereford are urging women and girls to brush aside their fears and pursue a STEM career.
The call comes during National Apprenticeship Week and in the wake of new data which shows girls in England are substantially less likely to consider taking science, technology, engineering or maths subjects at A-Level than boys.
Deborah Gittoes, Managing Director of Arctic Circle Ltd which manufactures innovative low carbon solutions for the heat transfer market, is among the growing band of business leaders which is trying to encourage more females into STEM sector careers.
As a company it takes on between two to four female apprentice engineers each year but Deborah said societal issues and a lack of support from a young age meant there were not enough women coming forward to fill roles within the sector.
She said: “We were one of the first companies in the industry to employ women in our electrical panel build area and we’ve been employing women into similar roles ever since.
“When we first introduced women in the workplace 25 years ago we were told it would never work. After some time there was a general acceptance and then manufacturers started copying.
“It still remains a male-dominated industry but there is absolutely no reason why females cannot do these jobs. Unfortunately, there is still a misconception by young women that they can’t do them and this is one of the biggest challenges we need to overcome.”
Deborah added that girls needed to be educated from a young age about the importance of STEM skills and careers advice in schools needed to start at primary age.
Arctic Circle apprentice Lily Prosser, who is undertaking an apprenticeship in engineering in partnership with Herefordshire & Ludlow College, echoes Deborah.
She said: “At school there needs to be a better explanation of the types of careers which exist. Young children are much easier to influence and if there were more female role models talking about STEM careers this would help to encourage more girls.”
Lily, 18, who is in the second year of her apprenticeship and loves the practical, hands-on side of the job, urged more girls to give it a go.
“In school engineering does seem to be seen as a boy’s subject and not really of interest to the girls. It perhaps comes across as a bit of a physical job but you get used to it. It just takes persistence.”
Sabrina Crook, 24, who recently qualified as an electrician also wants to see more females working in the manufacturing industry.
She decided to pursue a STEM career because she was put off working in an office at a young age.
“When I was younger I used to go and sit in my mum’s office and I just found it really boring. I think it put me off having an office job,” she admitted.
Sabrina started out as a domestic electrician working with Hereford Housing Trust but soon decided she wanted to move into the manufacturing sector and has been working at Arctic Circle, based at Rotherwas Industrial Estate, for 12 months.
“I guess some girls might be put off,” she said. “
“They perhaps think it’s a dirty job but if they’re like me and don’t care about getting dirty then it’s a pretty good career.”
Data published by the Department for Education last month showed a 26 per cent increase the number of girls taking STEM A Levels compared to 2010.
However, the research found that 15-year-old boys were more likely to see STEM subjects as being useful when it comes to getting a job whilst girls were less likely to consider a STEM subject their favourite.