Inspiring the Next Generation of Female Engineers

24th June 2019

Abbie Whitaker, metallurgist and robot programmer, Responsive Engineering takes students on a tour of the Armstrong Works

Students found out more about careers in STEM when they took part in a special event at Reece Group to mark International Women in Engineering Day.

Women make up around 12% of the engineering sector in the UK. With a large skills gap looming and the need for a more diverse workforce, it has never been more important to inspire and encourage more people, especially women, to choose a career in engineering.

Dr Simone Stuart-Cole, Innovation Services manager, Reece Innovation, demonstrates the Hydrapulse flusher gate used by water companies around the world

The Year 10 pupils put their creativity to the test in a design challenge set by Reece Innovation before finding out more about life inside one of Newcastle’s most famous factories, the Armstrong Works, on Scotswood Road.

Engineers explained how the subjects they study in school are then applied in the workplace – and how they can lead to the development of products such as Pearson Engineering’s life-saving MineWolf 370, which clears dangerous landmines in conflict zones around the world.

Chris Freeburn, design engineer, Pearson Engineering, explains how the MineWolf 370 helps to clear landmines in areas of conflict

They also had chance to quiz female employees from Reece Group and other North East businesses, including Royal IHC and PDL Group, about their careers.

Abbie Whitaker is a metallurgist and robot programmer at Responsive Engineering. The state-of-the-art machines enable Abbie and the team to manufacture cutting-edge products for sectors including rail and energy.

Abbie said: “Additive manufacturing is a rapidly expanding area and investing in robotics enables us to work with new materials and create complex metal parts at the cutting edge of manufacturing. It is exciting to be involved with new technologies and to see the new possibilities they will bring.

Abbie Whitaker, metallurgist and robot programmer, Responsive Engineering, with one of the firm’s robotic welding machines

“When I was at college, I was one of only two girls out of 80 students studying physics. I think first-hand experience of engineering is important and so I am keen to support events like this for young people, especially girls, to give them the chance to find out more about the opportunities STEM can bring.”

Kate Turnbull, a pupil at Kenton School, said: “I really love physics and it has been really interesting to find out how these subjects are then used in the workplace and to see all the machines inside the factory and the different materials being used.

“Today has shown me how varied the role of an engineer can be.”

Marian Berzenji, Y10, Kenton School, finds out more about marine engineering with John Patchett, regional STEM Coordinator for the Marine Engineering Pathway Team for Scotland

Students also had chance to get a glimpse into the world of marine engineering thanks to a visit from the Sea Cadets and their ‘engineering pod.’ The pod, which is packed with equipment to enable young people to get hands-on engineering experience, is one of the many STEM initiatives supported by the Reece Foundation.

To find out more about the Reece Foundation, the programmes it supports or how to apply for funding visit: