One of the region's best-known training providers is on a drive to get more girls into apprenticeships after Government figures revealed the UK is trailing several European countries when it comes to recruiting females.
Kate Chapman was recently appointed the new business development manager for SW Durham Training (SWDT), based on Aycliffe Business Park.
The 33-year-old began her career as an apprentice in fabrication and welding with SWDT – formerly known as South West Durham Training – after persuading her parents to let her ditch A-levels in favour of earning while learning.
She still ended up gaining a university qualification via the route and went on to forge a successful career, holding leading positions for engineering firms in Holland and Sweden before she turned full circle and returned to SWDT in October 2012, initially as business development co-ordinator.
“I believe passionately about apprenticeships for girls and boys as a fantastic career path,” she said.
“Under-representation of female in STEM subjects is not unique to SWDT - it’s a national problem. The UK has the lowest number of female engineers in the whole of Europe.
“The Government is looking at ways of trying to remedy the problem and we’re embracing that.”
Recently, EngineeringUK carried out a review of the data relating to women in engineering and technology and identified UKRC research that showed that only 9% of UK engineering professionals are women compared to 18% in Spain, 26% in Sweden and 20% in Italy. A Commons Select Committee has also recently held an inquiry to review evidence submitted to address the issues.
Chapman added: “We have a noticeable disproportion in male-to-female learners’ at SWDT, which currently stands at a 4:1 ratio.
“We have recognised this as an area for improvement, not only to tackle the gender bias issues, but as an area for recruitment to address the engineering skills shortage as a whole.”