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Big push on to correct the gender imbalance in engineering

Engineers Week is in full swing, with a wide range of events and workshops taking place around the country celebrating the world of engineering in Ireland.

The week is aimed at encouraging young people, their teachers and parents to explore the fun world of engineering, and the exciting career opportunities it offers.

One of the primary concerns regarding engineering in Ireland today is focused on the gender imbalance that exists in the field. This imbalance can be seen throughout the education system, from second through to third level, in term of the students taking STEM subjects.

At third level, more than 80 per cent of engineering, manufacturing and construction graduates in 2016 were male, while a little less than 80 per cent of graduates in information and communication technologies were also.

While at secondary level, less than 20 per cent of Leaving Cert female candidates took physics or chemistry in 2017.

While the figures are a concern, there is a big push now on to increase the numbers of female students participating in STEM subjects. Reforms to the college entry system that reward students for taking on higher level exams are having an effect. Statistics from the State Examinations Commission show that proportionately more girls than boys moved up to higher level in the three main science subjects in 2017.

For instance, 11 per cent more girls took on higher level physics than the year before, and this is compared to a two per cent increase in the number of boys that took it on.

The number of girls who took on higher level chemistry was up nine per cent from 2016, with the number of boys up four per cent.

Biology showed an increase of 6.5 per cent of girls taking higher level, with 4.8 per cent more boys taking it.

Higher level maths is attracting equal numbers of girls and boys now, but the guys are still ahead in terms of achieving the higher grades. But these figures are promising none the less.

Initiatives like Engineers Week, SciFest, the BT Young Scientist Exhibition and I Wish STEM are playing a big part in encouraging more female participation in STEM subjects, engaging schools and students, and showing them how fun and rewarding jobs in related fields can be.

The Government too has upped is investment in the promotion and education of STEM related subjects, with close to €4.5m announced again this year to support it.

The 10-year plan launched in November last year will boost the uptake in STEM subjects in the coming years. It aims to increase female uptake in STEM subjects by 40 per cent.

One aspect of this is to get children as young as preschool age interested in STEM. Added to this is the introduction of the foundations of computer coding in primary schools, and of computer science as a Leaving Cert subject option.

So, while the imbalance remains a concern, Ireland does seem to be on the right track now in terms of increasing female participation in STEM subjects, and thus in the field of engineering.

To find out more about the many great opportunities available in the world of engineering, should we not say Science Technology or Engineering contact HERO Recruitment Galway on (091) 730022; Cork on (021) 2066287; or Dublin on (091) 6190279. Email no such email or find HERO on Facebook and Linkedin.

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