Fresh start for female engineers

June 6, 2003

The University of Glamorgan gave Maria James (pictured) the chance to follow a career she had dreamt of since childhood, writes Tim Greenhalgh. Ms James, 19, from Merthyr Tydfil, said: "I always wanted to do something different. I liked the mechanical bit, getting my hands dirty.

The thing about engineering is that every day is a different challenge."

She completed three sets of work experience over two years at General Electric, but had the wrong mix of A levels to do a degree in engineering, so she joined Glamorgan's Fresh Start foundation programme that leads to the degree.

Steve Thomas, senior lecturer in the School of Engineering, said: "We've had European Social Fund funding to promote the Fresh Start programme, and the students get a bursary of £2,000."

Mr Thomas said: "On average, 10 per cent of a cohort will be female, a typical entry being about 30 students. The main barrier is that there is a lack of information at school level, and engineering is never promoted to girls."

Ms James is now waiting to hear whether she has a Network75 placement with a local engineering firm.

Amy Williams applied for more than 50 sponsorships with engineering companies before joining Network75. She is in her second year on the scheme and is top in her year.

Only one firm replied to her initial application but it did not follow through - a big disappointment, particularly as she could offer an A-grade A level in maths, B in English and D in physics. "I might not have gone on the course because I would have had to get a job," she said. But a Network75 event put her in contact with a local aircraft maintenance firm, Total Engine Support, which offered her a place.

"I work three days and then have two days on the course, which is hard work but great. The Network75 office is really supportive. It's brilliant not having to worry about money. I even get my fees paid," Ms Williams said.

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