Yorkshire female engineering academy to address skills shortage

A new academy in Sheffield is aiming to close the engineering skills gap.

Just 12% of the UK’s engineering workforce is female – the lowest percentage in Europe.

Liberty Steel Female Engineering Academy has recently opened its doors to its first cohort of students based at Sheffield College’s Olive Grove campus.

“We’re looking to see if the opportunity to study together as a group of girls will encourage other girls to try this engineering course,” said Tony Goddard, the Training Delivery Manager at Liberty Speciality Steels, who are sponsoring the academy.

“As part of this package we want those who do start this year to act as ambassadors and go into schools themselves to promote engineering. It’s that snowball effect – that’s what we’re looking for.”

The students will work towards a BTEC Extended Diploma in Engineering Level 3, which is equivalent to A Levels. Following the course, the students can go onto an extended diploma in engineering and then an HNC, or to university to study engineering.

As well as a lack of female engineers, the UK is also facing a shortage of engineers in general. Of the UK’s £5.7 trillion turnover last year, 21.4% of it came from engineering – but there is still a shortfall of 56,000 engineers throughout the country.

“The contract we have with Liberty is co-deliver and co-design,” says Rachel Topliss, the Sheffield College’s head of employer-academy partnerships and work-related activity.

The whole point of running an educational establishment is to make sure young people understand they can do anything they want to do

Liberty Steel, which employs nearly 2,000 people at its Stocksbridge and Rotherham sites, will provide real-life experience and work opportunities at its own training centre.

Anita Straffon, Deputy Chief Executive of Sheffield College believes that the academy will make a real difference to the level of inequality in engineering.

“We’re trying to make it equal. The whole point of running an educational establishment is to make sure young people understand they can do anything they want to do, and engineering is something that we want to try and encourage young women into, to make it an equal playing field for all.”

(image: sheffield college) 

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