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08 March 2022

#ScotAppWeek22 #IWD2022 Blog: Paul Fagan, Head of Employability, West College Scotland

To mark International Women’s Day, Paul Fagan outlines the SDS funded project he is leading in partnership with others to STEM a leaky pipeline of female talent in apprenticeships.

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It is widely known that there is a significant gender imbalance of females engaging in STEM related activities in school, further education, apprenticeships, and employment.

The gender disparity and under-representation of women in STEM roles is a waste of talent and jeopardises Scotland’s ambition to be at the forefront of STEM innovation.

Recruit, prepare and progress

West College Scotland is working on an exciting project funded by Skills Development Scotland in partnership with Forth Valley College and Equate Scotland to address the leaky pipeline and encourage greater female representation in STEM roles.

Our Women into STEM Project is working with our stakeholders and partners to develop awareness, access, and participation for young females to become involved in STEM activities and pathways. By developing sustainable Apprenticeship Pathways, the project aims to recruit, prepare, and progress female pupils aged 16-24 into STEM careers, including into Engineering Modern Apprenticeships across the West and Forth Valley.

Project focus

Our project is targeting 3 distinct pathways working with employers, apprentices, and secondary school pupils:

  • We are working with Employers to establish baseline of information on recruitment of females into STEM roles and delivering training on inclusive recruitment, supporting women in apprenticeships and equality, diversity and inclusion. Working alongside employers such as Howdens, Scotrail and Diodes we will be looking to understand and challenge stereotypes and develop the early years parts of this pipeline, to impact upon attitudinal and cultural change.

  • To create inclusive workplaces, we’ll be supporting female apprentices to build their peer support network with access to role models at the very start of their career, encouraging the apprentices to think about the challenges and opportunities, developing their confidence and the skills to succeed.

  • Finally, a specific focus of this project is supporting school clusters to address potential system or cultural barriers to female pupils choosing STEM subjects. Young Enterprise Scotland is working directly with female Secondary pupils across Renfrewshire and Forth Valley to develop marketing campaigns to encourage their peers to get into STEM!

Significant opportunities

The next year ahead will allow the project to conclude our activities with our employers, apprentices and secondary students, evaluate the findings and agree next steps with our Stakeholder Group.

Our Partnership recognises that there is an acute gender imbalance in the Scottish manufacturing sector and engineering workforce.

Whilst the gender imbalance is extreme, there are significant opportunities within manufacturing and engineering trades, with the latest Regional Skills Assessment forecasting demand for 5,700 jobs in the west region by 2027.

Our project can empower women to access and develop in these valuable jobs, through the development of robust skills pipelines.