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Karen Silk launches school engineering campaign to mark 30 years in business

“After three decades in the engineering industry, I can honestly say there has never been a more exciting time for engineers, especially for women,” says Karen, a former Sussex Business Woman of the Year and mother of two.

“The industry only has half of the candidates it needs to supply its specialist sectors. That means a raft of opportunities has opened up for students qualifying as engineers. Firstly, they will never be out of work, certainly in the next 15 years. Secondly, they will be able to negotiate highly competitive packages. And this is the first time that I’ve ever seen women genuinely being encouraged to enter the industry by both engineering companies and the government. At last!”

The recent government-commissioned Perkins Report found that only 30% of A-level maths candidates are female and at undergraduate level, only 15%-16% of engineering applicants are women. But 28% would consider it as a career if they realised they could work in exciting industries like fashion, music and film.

“What could be more interesting than creating cutting edge technology that can get you across the world as well as into space, like jet engines, plane structures, helicopters and rockets?” says Karen. “Or designing satellites, or microscopes the size of a large room to cater for the oil industry, or create flight simulation equipment with digital displays so realistic you really believe you are flying a plane?”

Karen says that over the past 30 years of her career, she has been extremely lucky to see some of the world’s most amazing creations in progress years before they hit the headlines or became the norm.

“Engineers are also the ones who come up with all the exciting security and defence equipment for land, sea and air – the stuff that sounds like it’s come straight out of a Bond film or Homeland, but equally ensures the safety and security of everyone.  All of this requires creativity, design and team work - key female skills.”

Karen’s & lsquo;Create the World You Want’ campaign will encourage both boys and girls to look at a career in engineering in a new light, but will also focus on encouraging female students into engineering.

“The UK has the lowest proportion of female engineers in the EU. Less than one in ten engineering professionals is a woman,” says Karen, whose company, Capital International Staffing, already has flexi-time in place, and actively supports women returning to work after maternity leave.

“Engineering needs a female perspective. I find it so refreshing that the likes of Debbie Sterling, the creator of GoldieBlox, is revolutionising girls’ toys with engineer-inspired books and puzzles. We also want to reach parents with the message that it’s ok for your daughter to become an engineer. In fact, engineering is a great career for women.”

According to the Perkins Report, benefits include engineers earning the fourth highest salary above lawyers and computer scientists, making on average around &pound28,500 a year three years after graduation.

Karen’s campaign teams will be visiting schools around the UK, starting in Sussex, using presentations, talks by leading professionals and fun interactive workshops to get students thinking about engineering as a career option.

“James Dyson recently said he had 2,000 jobs available for engineers, yet he would be surprised if he managed to recruit 300 of those from the UK. The shortage of engineers in this country is critical and we need to do something now.

“We have a duty to inspire students before they reach their GCSEs, when choices are already made and options are closed off. We need purposeful and effective early intervention to enthuse tomorrow’s engineers.”

The & lsquo;Create the World You Want’ campaign launches at schools in Sussex in February 2014.


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