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Women in RACHP event unites industry and education

At the Institute of Refrigeration’s most recent Women in RACHP networking event, education and industry came together to discuss how representation and participation in the RACHP sector can be increased.

The speakers with Bitzer UK's Samantha Buckell (far right).

More and more industries are paying attention to the matter of diversity in business, and the RACHP sector is certainly no exception. On 14 March, the Bitzer UK headquarters played host to a Women in RACHP networking morning to address the issue, providing a forum for discussion between speakers and attendees.

Samantha Buckell, chair of the network and personal assistant to Bitzer UK managing director, Kevin Glass, introduced the speakers, who hailed from both industry and education. Offering insights into their own careers paths and discussing the need for greater inclusion, they shared their views on how to bring more women into the RACHP sector and, indeed, the engineering field in general.

Jane Gartshore, partner at Cool Concerns, noted that “boys and girls are different” and that this should be taken into account.

Dawn Kennedy, an ex-engineer who has now moved into teaching at The Hazeley Academy, echoed these sentiments and called for a different approach to encourage women into engineering. She advocated placing an increased emphasis on its positive social impacts, and even suggested that men and women respond to language differently, and that the use of more adjectives as opposed to verbs in a job advert can make women much more likely to apply.

Shelley Bowdery, former head of maths and science at St Joseph’s College in Reading and advocate of the WISE Campaign for gender balance in science, technology and engineering, emphasised the importance of female role models and mentors and declared: “We’ve got to do something about getting ladies into ICT and engineering.”

However, while the topic of increasing female representation in STEM areas was high on the agenda, speakers also acknowledged the impending skills shortage and the worrying lack of young people – regardless of gender – entering the RACHP sector.

There was unanimous agreement among the speakers that the RACHP industry must look to engage with children at a younger age. Lisa Pogson, joint managing director at Airmaster said: “The primary school children are who you need to reach. It’s too late when they’re teenagers.”

Meanwhile, Ms Gartshore emphasised the need for a major culture change surrounding the popular perception of apprenticeships. She said: “As an industry, we don’t have enough young people coming in at apprenticeship level. It’s ok not to go to university.”

Clearly, parents play an important role in encouraging this outlook and Ms Kennedy noted that among her students, 70 percent said they would go to their parents as their first port of call for careers advice. However, many parents are simply not equipped with sufficient knowledge of the merits of apprenticeships or engineering careers.

Ian Fisher, business development manager at Airmaster who himself started out as an apprentice, supported the idea that young people’s career decisions can be heavily influenced by those close to them. He said: “Everyone I know has come into the trade through family or friends.”

Acting as a STEM ambassador, Mr Fisher has taken steps to change this, visiting schools and attending events such as Get up to Speed with STEM, which is next set to take place on 18 April at the Magna Science Centre in Rotherham.

Championing precisely this kind of collaborative approach, Ms Gartshore called for industry to make connections with local schools and explore the possibility of holding one-day sessions in which both girls and boys could visit companies to gain an insight into the RACHP field.

Indeed, from an event which united education with RACHP businesses, perhaps the most important outcome was the mutual agreement that it was vital for these sectors to work together to ensure that the future of engineering is secured.

The Women in RACHP Network is open to anyone – male or female – working in an RACHP-related role. Join the LinkedIn group here to keep up-to-date on future meetings and events. 

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