A North East college has joined forces with top academics and business leaders across Europe to encourage more women into science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects.
Gateshead College was asked by the Association of Colleges (AoC) to host the EU Erasmus+ funded partnership event for the project ‘GirlsTech’, which attracted key members of the industry from countries including the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Slovenia.
The GirlsTech project meeting included a two-day event, which supports the sharing of ideas around the combatting of low levels of females enrolling on a range of STEM subjects. WISE Campaign, a national initiative for equality across STEM careers, recently revealed that the overall number of girls studying GCSE Design & Technology decreased by 11.1% this year, while those taking GCSE ICT subjects fell by 16.6%.
Judith Doyle, principal and CEO at Gateshead College said: “We are delighted to have been chosen to host this very important event. It is vitally important that we encourage more females to enrol on STEM subjects, which will both widen career options for women and address regional skills gaps in STEM sectors. We are glad that we can bring a selection of the key people from across Europe together to share best practice and pool our efforts in encouraging more women into STEM.
“It is critical that more schools and colleges like ours provide the best impartial careers advice alongside quality learning and training options for women to pave their way to a successful career within these industries. We have embarked on providing as much engagement for young women as possible, including engaging with local primary and secondary schools, to broaden their horizons and introduce STEM activities at a young age.”
Involvement in GirlsTech was part of college's ongoing drive to boost female uptake of STEM subjects and help companies within these industries tackle skills shortages. Automotive teacher Katy Malia often leads workshops for local school children, introducing youngsters to ways to enjoy STEM.
Gateshead College is inspiring 14-16 year-olds to join the sector as part of its career college initiative, which offers students the opportunity to complete a new construction and built environment programme in tandem with their GCSEs which they study at school. This will set them on a pathway to PlanBEE, an innovative and flexible training programme launched by the college and Ryder Architecture to retain regional talent and prepare trainees with a range of skills across various construction disciplines.
Additionally, the college has joined forces with Northumbria University and Derby College to launch the BRIDGE Project, a research programme that will investigate why there are low numbers of women, people from disadvantaged backgrounds, ethnic minority groups, people with disabilities, mature and part-time students enrolling on construction-related degree courses.
The partners behind the project, which attracted the six-figure cash sum from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) Catalyst Fund, will then publish guidelines and solutions that could help tackle these pressing issues.
GirlsTech attendees were able to take part in round table discussions, sharing different policies designed to encourage more women to take up STEM subjects and subsequent careers, as well as various presentations on STEM engagement from Gateshead College, Derby College, Chichester College and Exeter College.
North East businessman and Ford Engineering chairman, Geoff Ford MBE, will also discuss how his partnership with the college is encouraging more young women into the sector through traineeships and apprenticeships.
Caroline Rowley, AoC regional director for the North East and Yorkshire & Humber, said: “The GirlsTech project event encourages the best representatives from across Europe to come together and discuss innovative ways to bring women into STEM. The statistics show that not enough young women are enrolling onto courses to further their knowledge in STEM subjects, which we feel may be a result of not enough exposure to careers in the industry.
“Gateshead College is doing a fantastic job of combatting this by providing inspirational female role models and events which introduce girls to STEM and the range of career options in the sector.”
The funding for Gateshead College apprenticeship programmes is made available via the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) and the European Social Fund (ESF). The Skills Funding Agency are responsible for improving the skills of England’s young people and adults to ensure we have a workforce of world-class standard. The European Social Fund is transforming lives through better skills and better job prospects.