WOMEN are engineering bright futures for young people in a profession traditionally dominated by men thanks to the vision of a leading North East college.
Darlington College’s curriculum manager for engineering Nicola Rickaby, engineering programme lead Kimberley Coates and senior lecturer in engineering Dawn Rowell are driving forward the subject among the next generation of male and female learners.
Green power and sustainable industry has seen a huge growth in engineering opportunities in the North East with Darlington College at the forefront of training a skilled workforce.
The college is soon to open a new state-of-the-art engineering facility complete with electric vehicle training centre.
For Dawn Rowell the centre will be the latest development in a lifelong passion for engineering that was sparked in childhood – that she even uses in her other great love of baking.
“I always wanted to be a mechanic,” said Dawn, of Catterick Garrison. “My dad used to bring me home engines to dismantle in the back garden and after leaving school I completed a five year apprenticeship as a car mechanic with Halfords. I worked with several dealerships before joining the AA on roadside patrols. It was great and the men thought it was amazing that a woman could mend their car.”
After leaving to have a child Dawn studied design and technology and gained a degree in education. She then taught engineering, design and technology in secondary schools before becoming an engineering lecturer at Darlington College teaching level 4 and 5 students.
“I love baking too as I used to have my own shop,” she said. “It’s surprising how much engineering you need to use in cakes to make sure they stay together.”
For curriculum manager Nicola Rickaby engineering has been an eye-opener after a career in child care.
After leaving school she gained a nursery nurse qualification and worked in nursery schools for ten years before joining Darlington College as an assessor, later becoming a senior lecturer and curriculum lead.
“Then an opportunity arose for a manager’s job which I secured and it has been fascinating to work in engineering,” said Nicola, of Richmond. “The engineering team has been so supportive and I have learnt such a lot.
“The knowledge and skills our young people come away with is incredible and they can use them to secure well paid jobs anywhere in the world. It’s ideal for girls as well as boys because engineering is no longer just a hands-on dirty job and now involves the latest technology.”
A mechanical engineering apprenticeship proved to be the perfect fix for senior lecturer Kimberley Coates.
“My family wanted me to be a secretary but I wanted to be an electrician like my dad,” recalled Kimberley, of Middlesbrough, who now has HND, City & Guilds, Btec, assessor and teaching qualifications.
“But I ended up training as a fitter/turner which meant I could make or mend things. Since I was a child I loved working out what was wrong with things and making them work again. My dad used to go mad when I took things apart, particularly his alarm clock.
“I worked overhauling plant for a machinery company, as a maintenance fitter for a bottling firm, in a pipe mill and for British Steel. It was quite hard working in these male dominated companies as you never felt included and they didn’t even have facilities for women. But it is so much more enlightened now and you can see when we have girls on our courses they are included.
“Having three women in these key engineering roles is great to attract more girls into the profession as it breaks down stereotypes. I used to teach level 2 welding and one of the best students I ever taught was a girl. I love engineering, can’t imagine doing anything else and would recommend it to girls and boys.”