A GE Volunteer shows pupils the ropes during the K’Nex Bridge Building Challenge (left to right): Nicole Muir, Emma Reid, Kirsty Bruce (St Machar Academy)
GE Oil & Gas has announced the launch of its GirlsGetSET initiative in the North East of Scotland. A five-year programme, it has been designed to raise awareness amongst female pupils of the wide range of opportunities available through pursuing a career in the fields of science, engineering and technology (SET).
With women making up just 6 percent of the engineering workforce in the UK (Royal Academy of Engineering analysis of the Labour Force Survey, 2004-10, quoted in Diversity Data, RAEn - http://www.wes.org.uk/statistics) and only 5.3 percent of females involved in SET-related roles (as opposed to 33 percent of men – from UKRC analysis of Labour Force Survey, 2008, UK Statistics Guide, UKRC, 2010), the initiative – the brainchild of engineering graduates from GE’s Aviation business – seeks to contribute to closing the gender gap between pupils choosing SET subjects at secondary school.
Kimberley Kirkham, the initiative’s co-founder, introduced the programme to GE Oil & Gas’ Subsea Systems business when she joined its global operations team in Aberdeen. She says, “My dad is a structural engineer and was pretty instrumental in encouraging my interest in the field. He spent some time as a university lecturer when I was younger and used to bring cool experiments home for my brother and I to play with. I never realised there was an engineering stereotype until I went to university and was the only girl in a class of about 60.”
“Until I started at GE, I didn’t have any strong female role models. I think that’s important, especially for young girls who haven’t yet made any assumptions about who engineers are and what they do. If we can make it accessible and they can see someone who’s done it before, then that helps them to identify the career possibilities and understand how to get there. Engineering is a great outlet for creativity and innovation and I want to help more female pupils to understand and appreciate that.”
“I’m really excited that, through GE Oil & Gas, we’ve been able to bring this fantastic opportunity to the North East of Scotland, a key region for driving continued growth across the worldwide energy sector. Some of the pupils involved will almost certainly become the future of our industry and it’s important that we invest in them now.”
GE invited 120 girls (aged 11-15) and teaching staff from Bridge of Don Academy, St Machar Academy and Montrose Academy to the launch event at its subsea headquarters in Aberdeen, where the day started with an official welcome address from VIP guest and GE Oil & Gas’ chief technology officer, Eric Gebhardt. He was joined by Subsea Systems’ quality leader, Ron Ritter and chief information officer, Angelica Tritzo.
Pupils kick-started the day by taking part in a series of fun workshops designed to simulate some of the challenges faced by those working in the oil and gas industry. This was followed by a networking event, in which they met GE employees to find out more about the variety of different roles available in energy sector, before ending the day with a prize-giving ceremony.
Now “live”, GirlsGetSET is an ongoing programme in which the girls will be mentored for the duration of their academic careers, before leaving for work, apprenticeships, college or university. Across the next five years, they will be given the opportunity to take part in a variety of fun and increasingly challenging activities, from day-long events and mini teamwork-based projects, to a year-long engineering project. Complementing this, they will have the chance to visit universities, take part in careers’ evenings, and join a personal branding workshop hosted by GE, designed to equip them with the soft skills required to kick-start their chosen careers.
Sharon Findlay, Global HR Leader at GE Oil & Gas Subsea Systems, says, “It is not news to us that a growing economy and the heightened demand for energy worldwide is increasing the need for more engineers. It’s something we continue to work on tirelessly, with various initiatives designed to tackle the issue. Partnerships between the energy sector and education are key to this, with GirlsGetSET demonstrating the concerted efforts being made by our organisation to boost the numbers of young people entering the industry at a time when talent is one of the biggest constraints.”