From education to employment

Empowering women in STEM with Calderdale College

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To celebrate International Women’s Day (Friday 8th March), 40 young women from the local area took part in insightful panels, interactive activities including high-tech virtual reality (VR), coding and robotics, and tours of industry-leading facilities at Calderdale College’s (@CalderdaleCol) purpose-built Engineering Centre in Brighouse.

In partnership with West Yorkshire Manufacturing Services, the inspirational day was designed to encourage students to consider career opportunities within science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

The young women, who came from Trinity Academy Grammar, were allowed to hear directly from successful women already working in the sector and learn more about the courses and apprenticeships that Calderdale College offers.

The day kicked off with a panel discussion and Q&A session hosted by Claire Williams, Head of Employer Engagement at Calderdale College. She was joined by inspirational women in the sector, spanning a broad range of job roles and at various stages of their careers.

They included Rebecca Atkinson, Marketing and Communications Manager from STEM school competition F1 in Schools; Sarah Hussain, Finance Director at machine tool provider Colchester Machine Tool Solutions; Emma Jewkes, Test and Research Manager at safety solutions provider A-SAFE and Charlotte Ilkiw, Head of HR at engineering business Thomas Broadbent. Former electrical apprentice, Chloe Hall, also joined the panel, who has since gone on to start her own business.

Attendees were then allowed to tour the state-of-the-art facilities at The Engineering Centre. This included the newly launched i4.0 Hub, which houses high-tech resources and tools focusing on augmented reality, advanced manufacturing, and robotics, where small and medium-sized businesses can explore how digital technology can improve their productivity and increase innovation.

The day also included a range of demos in the workshops, which reflected the type of equipment found in a workplace. This included the garage workshop which contains all the latest diagnostic equipment and ramps to carry out light vehicle maintenance and a custom-built welding and fabrication area. As part of the new i4.0 Hub, the students also got to take part in an interactive VR activity, providing them with an insight into how immersive technologies can be used as a learning tool.

Calderdale College’s Engineering Centre is on a mission to play its part in filling the shortage of engineers in the local area and to be able to offer high-quality employer-led courses and apprenticeships.

Claire Williams, Head of Employer Engagement for Apprenticeships at Calderdale College, said:

“As one of the region’s leading further education institutions, we’re passionate about ensuring we play our role in addressing gender imbalances in STEM. This is why we couldn’t be more pleased to be using The Engineering Centre to inspire the next generation, to demonstrate all the exciting careers they could have within these sectors and that they shouldn’t let any barriers get in their way.

“It was fantastic to receive such a positive response from the young women and showcase all the routes they could take to pursue a career in STEM, including apprenticeships. Days like this are incredibly valuable and will help us create a strong pipeline of talent for businesses across the region.”

Alina, a student from Trinity Academy Grammar, said:

“Calderdale College’s event has been lovely. The speakers have explained a lot about the different careers within the STEM industries and it’s helped me reflect on what I want to do. I’m very interested in getting into engineering and I know it’s currently a male-dominated field, so I’m proud of what I want to be in the future. The robotics activity has been the highlight of my day!”

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