Girls Given Insight into Becoming Future STEM Leaders

Two days of fun-filled activities in Llanelli and Pembroke saw school girls from across West Wales get to grips with new technologies, engineering challenges and science experiments as part of an initiative to get more young women interested in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects.

 The Aspire2Be: Future STEM Leaders initiative – sponsored by Valero Pembroke Refinery, leading skills body the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB), Coleg Sir Gâr and the Regional Learning & Skills Partnership for South West & Mid Wales (RLSP) – aims to improve the gender diversity in traditionally male-dominated industries.

35 female Year 8 students from Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire took part across two days (3 and 4 October), with a chance to learn about engineering careers and try their hand at a few of the activities they could pursue through STEM. At Coleg Sir Gâr’s Graig Campus in Llanelli, students were treated to an exhibition of different technologies, including 3D printing, drones, virtual reality headsets and more, before taking part in hands-on pipeline construction challenge with ECITB and Valero personnel. On the second day the group were given a tour of Valero’s Pembroke Refinery as well as taking part in a robotics challenge and interactive chemistry and physics experiments with Valero’s female operators and engineers.

 Valero Public Affairs Manager Stephen Thornton, said, “Like other industries, the downstream oil sector needs to improve on the number of women as part of our workforce, and that starts by making sure young women are aware as early as possible of the opportunities available from a career in STEM. We hope that the girls taking part in this year’s initiative will be inspired to join the next generation of engineers, and truly aspire to be future STEM leaders.”

Chris Claydon, Chief Executive of the ECITB, said: “Aspire2Be is a great way to show female students the opportunities for exciting and varied careers in engineering. We know that women make up just three percent of the workforce on the average engineering construction site, so it’s clear we need to do more to attract women into engineering jobs. This superb initiative engages with young women who enjoy and excel at STEM subjects and encourages them to consider engineering as a possible career path. I’d like to thank our project partners Valero, Coleg Sir Gâr and RLSP who have been instrumental in making this year’s Aspire2Be a great success.”

Adam Twells, Head of Engineering at Coleg Sir Gâr, said, “Coleg Sir Gâr is very happy to support events like this as the proportion of women in STEM related careers is still very low. With the help of local female engineers, and a variety of activities, it is hoped that we have shown that there are no barriers to girls who want to pursue these careers.”

The Regional Learning and Skills Partnership South West & Mid Wales team, said, “The RLSP were delighted to be involved in such a successful event; the sector continues to grow at a fast pace, providing opportunities for rewarding and well paid work. It is therefore, absolutely crucial that the sector is promoted to girls and they are fully equipped with the right skills to take advantage of these opportunities. The two day initiative allowed the students to participate in fun-filled, innovative activities and technical challenges both as individuals and as teams. These activities not only highlighted the differing areas of STEM but also gave them the chance to develop some of the softer skills we know employers are looking for. We look forward to further opportunities to work with partners to provide learners with such informative and fun days in the future.”