International Women's Day

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It’s International Women’s Day and we’re shining the light on our inspirational teachers Katy and Charlotte from our Automotive and Engineering departments.

Katy Malia is proud of the progress being made to encourage more females into careers that might have felt out of reach for them.

Herself a former Gateshead College student, Katy switched from a career in early years education during her late 20s after being encouraged to discover the automotive sector by her tutor. Now, as curriculum leader for the college’s automotive programmes, she is working hard to support more females to carve out a career in the car industry.

Katy says: “We are continuing to see an increase in female learners, which is complemented by the automotive sector becoming more inclusive and welcoming.

“Not too long ago, garages and employers were still asking, ‘do you have any lads?’

“But now, it’s, ‘do you have any students?’ – and that change in terminology is great because we have increasing numbers of students that identify as LGBTQ+ too.”

Katy also says she is thrilled at the influence she’s able to have as a role model for young women pursuing careers in sectors which have typically been seen as a ‘man’s world’– having once felt that way herself.

She says: “I remember constantly complaining about my car and feeling ripped off.

“So my tutor suggested I do an automotive qualification – at first, I said, ‘girls can’t do that’.

“But she said, ‘yes they can, my daughter’s just completed a mechanical course at Gateshead College’, and that was the start of things for me,” adds Katy, who combined her studies with work at a Washington garage.

One of Katy’s students is Bobbie Cartmell, who originally thought about studying archaeology upon leaving school, despite her passion for all things mechanical.

Bobbie, of Consett, pursued her interest in cars working at a local garage, having found a love for speed through weekends watching Formula One on television with her father.

The 17-year-old says: “During school, I was so sure I wanted to be an archaeologist, even though cars had been a large part of my life.

“As a family, we went to a classic car show every year, and my dad would always be watching Formula One.

“When I knew some of my friends had signed up to come to the college, I had a look at the courses too, and I came across the automotive one. I said straightaway, ‘that’s what I want to do’.

“Eventually I would love to go into rallying, or into Formula One as a pit crew member.”

Bobbie is currently studying a Level 2 light motor vehicle service and repair qualification at the college’s Team Valley-based Skills Academy for Automotive, Engineering and Manufacturing. Plus, she’s already making her mark in the sector and inspiring others to follow in her footsteps; she represented the college at the North East England Chamber of Commerce’s Inspiring Females Conference.

In the adjoining engineering department at the college which is headed by mechanical engineering teacher Charlotte Brass, there are eight females studying on an apprenticeship or full-time study programme.

Charlotte, who left a CNC job with North Shields’ Chirton Engineering after seven years to teach at Gateshead College. Like Katy, she is channelling her time in industry to ensure the next generation – particularly female learners – are without barriers when it comes to making employment progress.

She says: “I had many experiences of men telling me I couldn’t do something because I’m a woman. So I came into teaching to show girls they can break the stigma.”

After missing out on the Royal Navy, Charlotte sought another career, and found inspiration when her school began teaching CNC with a wood router.

And she says being a very visible female in the engineering sector is making a huge difference to female learners’ decision to enter the sector.

She says: “One of my students said she wouldn’t have come to college if she didn’t have a female teacher. She didn’t think women did engineering, but she came along to an open event and immediately said she wanted to study here.

“That was great to see, and a real reflection of how things are changing for the better and how we, as a college, are at the forefront of that change.”

Fri Jul 12 2024