Women can play key role in plugging the region’s skills gaps

Key skills gaps in the West Midlands could be significantly reduced if more women enter male dominated industries like manufacturing and engineering, academics have said.

The region has a shortfall in the number of qualified technicians, engineers and other skilled trades despite being one of the UK’s powerhouses in manufacturing.

And getting more women to enter the fields could be ‘crucial’ in fulfilling the needs of the West Midlands’ workforce and boosting the economy according to University lecturers.

Birmingham City University is working with schoolgirls to demonstrate the merits of future study and careers in the fields in a bid to help meet the needs of the region’s workforce.

The University, alongside Coventry University and the University of Wolverhampton form West Midlands Combined Universities, which aims to support the priorities of the West Midlands Combined Authority in creating jobs, skills and growth.

Central to those priorities is plugging the region’s skills gaps which could be helped significantly if more women chose to enter fields like manufacturing and engineering.

Laura Leyland, Senior Lecturer at Birmingham City University, said: “We know there is a shortfall in the number of qualified technicians and engineers across the country, but here in the West Midlands that is particularly significant given the importance of manufacturing to our economy.

“The only way we are going to be able to solve this problem is by getting more people studying these subjects and working in these careers, and clearly that means we have the change the fact that women are seriously underrepresented in the field.

“Increasing the number of females in engineering is going to be crucial to the future for our workforce and our economy, sadly at the moment the numbers are remaining fairly static and we desperately need that to change.”

Birmingham City University is also putting measures in place to support female students on courses traditionally viewed as ‘male’ and working alongside organisations in the region to help promote the benefits of a diverse workforce and increase the number of skilled workers needed to fill vacancies.

The UK currently has the lowest proportion of female engineering professionals in Europe, with less than 10 per cent, despite there being little difference in the achievements of males and females in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths subjects at GCSE level.