Key skills gaps in the West Midlands will only be filled if more women enter male dominated industries like manufacturing and engineering, academics have warned.
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.
Birmingham City University is bidding to help plug the gap by working with schoolgirls to demonstrate the merits of future study and careers in the field.
It 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.
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.
The University held a Women in Engineering day to give more than 70 schoolgirls the opportunity to try out a career in engineering by designing, building and testing flood proof homes.
Schools from Birmingham and the Black Country visited the University including Barr Beacon School in Walsall, RSA Academy in Dudley and Bordesley Green Girls and Plantbrook School in Birmingham.
Business leaders from organisations including Doosan Enpure and Jaguar Land Rover also attended to show their support for more women entering the sector and advise the next generation of workers on the merits of a career in the industry.
Birmingham City University has recently joined up to WISE (Women In Science, Technology and Engineering), a nationwide campaign to get more females studying subjects in these areas and advises businesses on how to support women in such careers.
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.