Engineering opportunities for women at heart of skills shortage solutions

Opening the door of engineering opportunities for women has put Russell Taylor Group at the heart of finding solutions to the nation’s skills shortages.

With the annual shortfall of engineers in the UK reckoned to be as high as 20,000 – a figure that could possibly rise if a Brexit outcome reduces the country’s international intake of labour – plugging these skills gaps has never been more important.

However, Steve McCarthy, manager of Russell Taylor Group’s Technical and Engineering Division, believes a pro-active approach to the recruitment of women into vital professional roles could help turn the tide for employers in the construction and engineering sectors.  He said: “Engineering jobs for women are increasingly being seen as the answer to solving the problem of the country’s skills gaps. We’re currently in a situation where we simply don’t have enough engineers to deliver innovation and improvement projects both here and abroad and, by not engaging half of our population, we are missing out in a big way.

“Fortunately, employers are more than ever now seeking a diverse workforce and many of our key clients are specifically looking for women to fill senior engineering roles. It’s a welcome start and, by raising awareness of the massive range of job opportunities out there, we are hopefully on the way to breaking down even more barriers to women taking up these occupations.”

According to a study by Engineering UK, the organisation which works to inspire tomorrow’s engineers and increase the talent pipeline into engineering, the UK needs 186,000 engineers annually through to 2024, a demand that can only be fulfilled by inclusivity in the workplace. Women still only account for around 12 per cent of the UK’s engineering workforce though with figures showing that the number of female engineering professionals is the lowest in Europe.

Steve continued: “This is why we are taking positive moves at Russell Taylor Group to ensure employers are getting the diverse workforce they need to counter any skills gaps in construction and engineering and, for job seekers, we make it clear that the days no longer exist when professionals in these sectors are all men.

“Engineers are a driving force for innovation and creativity and are out there solving some of the world’s biggest problems – it’s a profession where gender is irrelevant and where equal opportunities open doors to many exciting careers. It’s also recognised that diversity in the workplace makes good business sense, a gender balance creating better relationships with customers and resulting in higher productivity.

“Job opportunities for engineers are worldwide and pay rewards are high too – in fact, engineering is one of the best paid industries in the world with engineering students second only to medics in securing full-time jobs and earning good salaries.”

Championing inclusion and diversity in the workplace, Jack Gritt, founding member and now president of Women in Nuclear UK who has 33 years’ experience in the nuclear industry, urges women to take full advantage of the many opportunities open to them in what she describes as “an exciting and vibrant industry”.

She said: “It’s a great industry with so many wonderful opportunities - to use transferrable skills and broaden your experience, to travel internationally and to deliver really exciting projects.

“Engineering is such a simple word for a truly diverse number of roles and specialisms and sadly that is not always understood. The nuclear industry needs lawyers, project managers, financial specialists, planners, communications officers, human resources, trainers, psychologists, quality experts, safety experts, the list is endless. And that’s before we’ve considered the engineers in mechanical, electrical, commercial and industrial, civil and so on.”

A Chartered Mathematician and Member of the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications, Jack has seen the way industry has changed over the years and says the nuclear industry now realises the important role women play in the success of the sector.

She continued: “It has become much more aware of the need to provide flexibility and options in the working environment to suit the needs of everyone in today’s society.

“Recognition of the fact that men and women play more equal roles in career paths, raising a family and patterns of working means the industry has had to adapt to be a welcoming and attractive option for all.

“There’s still a long way to go but we are certainly on a journey of improvement.”

Encouraging more women into the nuclear industry and into engineering/STEM roles in general is a major focus of Women in Nuclear UK but Jack believes both boys and girls of school age are missing a lot of vital information to help them make the right educational choices.

She said: “Engineering is still not put in the spotlight and we need to do more to get information into the educational system.

“Also, there are still barriers to entry into the industry which include perception. Women often have a poor perception of the nuclear industry which is why Women in Nuclear UK has “Dialogue” as a key objective and we dedicate time to talking with women about opportunities in the industry to dispel some of the myths that have grown over time.”

What Jack loves most about her job, she says, is working across the industry with men and women to address gender balance.

She said: “It is a privilege to have open conversations to understand the barriers to engaging more women in our industry and then taking action to drive change.”

Steve McCarthy concluded: “With Russell Taylor Group’s ongoing support for a national growing movement to encourage more women to take up engineering roles, it’s important that both our hiring employers and job hunters are aware of our forward-looking stance in helping to bring about change.

“By listening to our clients’ needs, we are constantly seeking ways to make sure our teams do everything possible to bring about inclusion and diversity in the workplace, initiatives such as getting actively involved in canvassing women to fill appropriate vacancies and taking steps to ensure there’s no gender bias when vacancies occur.

“Most important, however, is that we realise the most vital outcome is the best candidate getting the job, no matter whether male or female.”

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