A COLLEGE has seen a spike in the number of women signing up for engineering, following a course of positive discrimination.

City of Glasgow College found young women had the skill, ambition and interest in the subject but were put off by the male-dominated educational environment.

However, a pilot project that saw female applicants enrolled in a same-sex class for the first year of their course has encouraged more than a dozen girls to sign up this year.

Carol Murray, Head of School, Construction, Engineering and Energy, said: “Typically, we get one or two girls in every class.

“We’ve never really got above five or six per cent. On a really good year, maybe seven per cent.

“We thought we needed to try something different, so we decided to run a course that was all girls and see if that encourages more of them to come in.”

In an attempt to entice female school-leavers to one of its engineering courses – electronic, electric, mechanical, or marine – City of Glasgow College ran a three-day taster course to give prospective students a flavour of what they could expect.

More than 70 girls turned up to hear motivational speakers from the engineering industry.

Ms Murray added: “One of the speakers was a young black woman who has been very successful in engineering, and she explained that you can be very feminine and still be an engineer.

“The woman explained, ‘I didn’t want to give up my high heels for safety boots”, but she discovered that a lot of engineering is not hands-on and practical – you can be in an office using your brain and your knowledge.

“The innovation side appeals to lots of prospective female students.”

Those who attended the taster course expressed that a girls-only course in first year at college would boost their confidence and that, from second year study onward, they would feel established as engineering students and sufficiently positive about integrating with male classes.

Ms Murray said: “We have five all-male classes, so we’re not discriminating against males – we’re just doing something to try to open the door for girls.

“We have an ocean of female talent and, previously, we haven’t been able to tap into it.

“Girls are interested in engineering – they just don’t want to go to an educational setting where they are the only girl.

“Just because there’s another one girl there, it doesn’t mean they’re going to be pals.

“Whereas, if there are five or six girls, there’s a greater chance they they’ll make friends, enjoy their education, and excel academically.”

City of Glasgow College has committed to ensuring the Women Into Engineering taster course for prospective students will become an annual event.

Schools provided positive feedback to the college regarding the initial opportunity offered to female pupils, and, from next year, the college will work with schools to identify a suitable week during which girls can attend the course.

April Brown, 22, from Largs, is a student of HNC Women Into Engineering.

She said: “After graduating from college and going to university, I would like to get into mechanical and mining engineering.

“My dad and grandpa were both engineers but I’ll be the first female in the family to pursue a career in the industry.

“I started a course in car mechanics and wanted to do more.

“I gained some qualifications in manufacture engineering and decided to enrol on the course at City of Glasgow College.

“The facilities and equipment in the new Riverside Campus is state-of-the-art and I’m really excited about starting here and meeting new people.

“My grandpa build a speedboat that is berthed in Largs and that he hires to holidaymakers.

“I have many happy childhood memories of spending time on the boat and my ambition is to build a boat of my own.

“My grandpa has always said that, as an engineer, you know you’ve made it when you make something you are proud of, and that is my aim.”

Carol added: “I hope April’s enthusiasm will prove infectious.

“The staff at City of Glasgow College and students like April are equally enthusiastic about the new facilities and way of teaching at our new Riverside Campus. It is an exciting time to be part of the college.”

Ms Murray says she has first-hand experience of the difficulty faced by a female when attempting to break in to engineering.

In 1977, she became the first-ever female apprentice at Rolls Royce, working as a research and development engineer at the aerospace factory in Hillington.

IT was the year of the Equal Opportunities Act,” she said. “The big companies really had to take a girl on to support the government initiative.

“There were 8000 people in the factory, some of whom were delighted to see a girl and thought it should have happened a long time ago, and others who thought ‘she’ll never be able to do it’.

“There was pressure to succeed, and thankfully I did.

“It was a nice environment. You had to go through the workshop and the men were very nice.

“It was the era where they would put up all the girly pictures, but they took them down out of respect for me. There was no bad language, either.

“Nowadays, companies like that still don’t have anywhere near 50-50 or even 70-30 ratios of male to female staff, but they have quite a lot of female engineers and they promote them.

“In engineering, we have all these jobs that we need to fill and, if we’re neglecting or not using the female talent that is there, it impacts negatively on the economy.

“Engineering is a great career because there are so many different facets to it: if you get fed up with one type of engineering, you can move into a totally different area and still be an engineer.

“You can travel the world or stay at home.

“A lot of doors have been opened to women in engineering now.”