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The Corporation

Posted: 14/07/11

Schoolgirls bridge the engineering gap

Schoolgirls have been learning about the world of civil engineering through a series of interactive bridge-building activities.

Groups of 14 to 16-year-olds from four secondary schools across Nottinghamshire took turns at constructing a 12.5m-long bridge made out of aluminium, plywood and stainless steel cables as part of a two-day event. 

The challenge – which tested the girls' maths and science knowledge and team-working skills – was run by West Nottinghamshire College in conjunction with the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) through its ‘Bridge to Schools’ initiative.

The activities were staged to give the pupils an insight into the work of civil engineers – which is traditionally seen as a male-dominated profession – and their contribution to society.

They formed part of a major project called ‘Women in Engineering’, which was launched by the college earlier this year to change females’ perceptions of the industry and promote the diverse employment opportunities it provides.  The college is seeking to engage 450 young people aged between 14 and 18 in engineering workshops and recruit 150 female engineering apprentices by March 2012.

Schools taking part in the bridge-building activities were Hollygirt School, Nottingham; Quarrydale Foundation School, Sutton-in-Ashfield; Selston Arts and Community College and Shirebrook Academy.

Sessions were run over two days (Monday 18 and Tuesday 19 July) at Hosiery Mills Sports and Social Club, Sutton-in-Ashfield, and were led by college staff, Bridge to Schools co-ordinator Bridget Burke and fellow engineers from the ICE, whose East Midlands HQ is at the University of Nottingham Innovation Park.

Sandra Cowley, head of employer engagement at West Nottinghamshire College, said:  “Working in partnership with Bridge to Schools enabled us to raise the aspirations of more young females and start to change their perceptions about careers in engineering.

“We all have a role to play in inspiring young women – motivating them to seize exciting career opportunities and challenge tradition.”

Bridget Burke, the ICE’s Bridge to Schools co-ordinator, said: “Many girls are unaware of the enormous opportunities available to them within the engineer sector.  We’re particularly keen to show girls the exciting and rewarding careers that exist in civil engineering, where they can add an extremely important and much-needed contribution to teams that are often dominated by men.”