IET YWE 2012 shortlist announced

25 September 2012
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Young Woman Engineering of the Year 2011 Charlotte Joyce

The IET’s Young Woman Engineer of the Year Award finalists are named.

The IET Young Woman Engineer of the Year Award seeks to reward the very best female engineers under the age of 30 working in the UK today, highlighting the achievements of women in engineering and encouraging others to enter the profession.

This year the IET saw a 57 per cent increase on entries and with the caliber of applicants so high, judges have had their work cut out in whittling down the list to the final five:

• Roma Agrawal, senior structural engineer, WSP Group, London
• Yewande Akinola, environmental services engineer, ARUP, Bristol
• Jessica Jones, managing director, LGS Ltd, Cardiff
• Philippa Riddoch, manufacturing engineer, BAE Systems, Balderstone, Lancashire
• Charlotte Tingley, integrated project team, Euro Fighter Typhoon Aircraft Helmet, BAE Systems, Rochester, Kent.

Member News caught up with some of the finalists to ask what it’s like to make it onto the shortlist for this prestigious Award. ARUP environmental services engineer Yewande Akinola said, “I am super, super pleased to have made it to the YWE shortlist. The IET awards are extremely prestigious and it is very inspiring and encouraging to have made it this far.”

Likewise, electrical and electronic engineering student and managing director of her own limited company, LGS Ltd, Jessica Leigh Jones commented: “I feel very privileged to have made it to the YWE shortlist and have been inspired by some of the other women that I have met. I also feel a great sense of achievement as I had not expected to make it this far.”

The Award seeks to highlight the work of young women engineers and showcase them as outstanding role models. Women are still under-represented in engineering and technology and it is vitally important to keep inspiring the younger generation. Member News asked those on the shortlist what first inspired them into the field:

Philippa Riddoch, a manufacturing engineer with BAE Systems, explained, “My Dad works for BAE Systems and my Granddad used to as well so engineering has always had a presence when I was growing up, but I never really knew what I wanted to do for a career. I finished school with great GCSE results and knew that I wanted to do A Levels at college and it was while I was at college, I decided that university full time wasn’t for me. I wanted to continue my education, but start earning and become independent, so, in that respect BAE Systems’ apprenticeship scheme was a perfect fit.”

Apprenticeships offer paid real-life work experience combined with a bank of transferable skills and qualifications that will lead to a successful career. For many, apprenticeships provide particular advantages as a route into engineering.

As Philippa maintains: “I could’ve gone to university with the four Bs I got at A Level, but realised the experience was worth more than the qualifications and that is really the biggest advantage of doing an apprenticeship. I completed multiple placements over two years in various different fields: Eurofighter Flight Line, Avionics Test, Planning for Manufacture and Design, and this allowed me to decide what interested me and start a full-time job there. Not only do you gain experience, but you grow in confidence as every 16 weeks, you move and basically start a new role.”

Fellow finalist Charlotte Tingley, also with BAE Systems, agrees, saying: “Choosing the apprentice route into an engineering career has a huge advantage because of the ‘on-the-job’ experience you gain. Anyone can study engineering at college or university, but to study and work alongside each other gives experience and real job knowledge which you can’t learn through text books.”

So, are awards like the IET’s Young Woman Engineer of the Year succeeding in inspiring the next generation of women engineers? As Yewande Akinola says: “Girls are gradually seeing engineering and technology as viable careers. This year, I have seen a slightly higher percentage of ladies join the internship and graduate scheme at the firm I work with. There is still tons of work to do!...After my first media role, I quickly saw the contributing part it played in inspiring young ladies. It has since helped change some of the perceptions of engineering and technology as boring, and has helped me showcase [the field] on a platform of excitement and trendiness!”

Jessica confirms this, saying: “I do believe that the situation has improved and now more young women are pursuing engineering and technological careers. However, I still think that more needs to be done to promote our profession in a light that encourages and inspires more women to get involved.”

And awards aside, what of the future? Something that all the finalists have in abundance is drive and ambition and like the field they represent their future goals and challenges are diverse and ambitious.

For Yewande, her future “gauge of success will be based on my ability to use engineering knowledge and skills to overcome challenges rising from funding, perception, politics, social welfare and instability.”

Whilst Philippa’s “immediate future challenges are completing my BEng mechanical engineering degree.” She adds, “I’m just starting my final year and am aiming to get a first. After that, I’m interested in completing an MEng in operational excellence at Cranfield University.”

The Awards ceremony itself takes place on the evening of 6 December 2012 at IET London: Savoy Place, with celebrity awards host Gabby Logan. Additional prizes announced at the ceremony include the Mary George Memorial Prize for Apprentices and the Women's Engineering Society Prize. To register and for more details, visit the registration page. For general enquiries, please email eventsa2@theiet.org

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