“As soon as I started that course I knew it was the right field for me,” explains Ealasaid Nicleòid, aged 27, who is currently in her 4th year of a BEng (Hons) Mechanical Engineering at Lews Castle College UHI.
For years women have been underrepresented in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) university courses and careers. This is a trend that is starting to change though. According the recent UCAS data, 35% of STEM students in higher education in the UK are women.
Lews Castle College UHI are celebrating these figures with a 6 year on year growth in STEM enrolment and dedication projects to promote this continued growth.
“I’m a firefighter, rugby player and I love working on cars and motorbikes so I think I buck the trend a little bit anyway. When I was younger I could see myself doing a practical, hands-on job that probably wouldn’t be the ‘norm’ for a woman. I didn’t think I’d be studying for an honours degree though.
In 2016/17, after a few years of working, I returned to full-time education at LCC to do my Highers. At that point I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do at all, I was simply focused on getting my Highers so I’d have some options. I think it was through doing maths and physics that I realised I quite liked working things out and problem solving. I took a look at the course catalogue and saw that the HNC Engineering systems ticked all the boxes for my interests.”
(Engineering student Ealasaid Nicleod)
The percentage of women in STEM has fluctuated from 25%, down to 24%, and finally up to 26% in 2018 according to UCAS statistic so a lot more work is still to be done in order to encourage more women into STEM. This is something that Lews Castle College UHI is working hard to do.
Head of Technology Roddy Fergusons said, “Lews Castle College UHI have had increased female enrolment in our engineering courses for the last six years and we work hard to encourage and promote the importance of the role of women in STEM. These subjects and skills can build careers is a huge variety of industries including computing, engineering, servicing, maintenance and manufacturing all of which are hugely relevant to our local economy and providing local jobs.”
Before Covid hit the College developed and rolled out the ‘STEAM Ahead’ project with Stornoway Library. STEAM – standing for science, technology, engineering art and mathematics – work to promotion these subject and the creative and artistic elements of enegineering.
The project offers a series of STEAM activities for primary and early secondary school children, from Nursery and P1, right through to the S1 and S2s. Classes have the opportunity to take part in sessions exploring coding and robotics, gradually increasing their skills and knowledge, while having great fun at the same time.
Sue MacFarlane Interm Principal and Chief Executive of LCC UHI comments, "In the last four years, the college and library have been successfully working together on STEM projects. Thus project focuses on the vital area of digital technology and allows us to pool our resources and deliver important but fun activities to primary school children to help prepare them for current and future developments in computing and communication.
The work being done around STEM by Lew's Castle College UHI at the earliest stages of education in the Outer Hebrides gets straight to the heart of International Women's Days Chose to Challenge mantra."
Ealasaid Nicleoid “When I first started studying Engineering I don’t think I quite knew what it involved and so I think introducing Engineering to school age children would significantly increase the interest in it.”
“When someone mentions they’re a Mechanical Engineer we’ll often picture someone who works on cars or offshore with heavy machinery and boilersuits. It can be that, if that’s what you’re interested in, but there’s so much more to it.
"Every man-made thing around us has been engineered in some way through designing, testing or manufacturing and I think maybe that is something that needs to be recognised more. Also, you don’t have to be a practical, hands-on person or enjoy fixing cars to be a good engineer. It’s a whole field of people with different experiences and thought processes that work together to solve problems.”
Lews Castle College UHI offer Engineering courses from NC Level 5 through to Degree level. You can find out more about engineering courses at Lews Castle College here - https://www.lews.uhi.ac.uk/courses/?auto=&keyword=engineering
You hear directly from our students about their experience of studying at LCC UHI here - https://www.lews.uhi.ac.uk/student-stories/