EDT’s STEM taster experiences and placements are helping to encourage females into industry
Helen Cavill, our October FERM (Female Engineering Role Model), is a Chartered Engineer and works as a Process Improvement Manager at M&H Plastics, a premium manufacturer of plastic bottles and caps, primarily for the personal care market.
Helen’s role involves investigating and resolving complex technical issues, often spanning across several production departments, as well as leading long-term improvement projects.
Helen has always been a very practical person, with a passion for maths and science, which she pursued at A-level studying maths, physics and chemistry.
During her school years, a Careers Advisor encouraged Helen to consider engineering and helped to arrange a work experience placement within the field. Naturally, Helen loved it, and pursued further opportunities by taking part in a Headstart engineering taster course at Bradford University.
During the course Helen had the opportunity to gain Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) experience through hands-on activities that encouraged her to think more about careers in STEM. Ultimately the experience showed her how varied and interesting engineering is, as well as giving her first-hand experience as part of an engineering project team.
Helen was quite sceptical about attending University, as she would be the first in her family to do so. In order to help her to decide on the best route before starting a degree, Helen decided to enrol on EDT’s Year in Industry placement programme, spending a year at an iron foundry where she was able to develop soft skills, gain invaluable engineering experience and also gain confidence which solidified her decision to study Manufacturing Engineering at the University of Cambridge.
As the UK has fewer female engineers than anywhere else in Europe, efforts are being made to encourage more females to consider STEM careers and overlook stereotypes that have formed about over the years about engineering and engineers. Only 8.7% of professional engineers in the UK are women, according to research from EngineeringUK, so there is definitely room for improvement.
When asked about her perspective on the current gender diversity balance in industry, Helen commented, “I am proud to be a female engineer and I do not think that my gender has held me back in my career. In my opinion, gender is irrelevant when discussing what makes a good engineer – everyone has different skills and qualities. My particular strengths are my academic ability, methodical attention to detail and high level of emotional intelligence. I think this has enabled me to become a technical specialist with a real understanding of how people around me will react to different situations – an empathetic engineer.”
She continues “I think there should be more females in engineering, but I am not keen to overly emphasise females in recruitment. I think the great shame is that there are children of any gender who dismiss the idea of engineering as a career because they are given false stereotypes and poor information. If every child was exposed to what engineering was really like by the age of 11 or 12 (ideally through a practical activity and positive role models), I think a lot more children would consider engineering as a career. This would improve the gender imbalance, but more importantly allow many more children to embark on this exciting career path.”
Aside from travelling in her spare time, Helen is also a very committed STEM Ambassador, having been an active member for nine years and a finalist for the 2013 STEMNET Award for ‘Most Dedicated STEM Ambassador’, she carries out various school engagements, presenting at career events, mentoring STEM Club projects, throughout the year.
If you, like our FERM of the month, are unsure about what degree course path you are interested in and would like to undertake a real workplace experience click here to learn more about what EDT’s Year in Industry has to offer.