17 July 2012
Susan Evans, business development manager for sector skills council Semta, explains why businesses must promote female participation levels in typically male-dominated industries
In these challenging economic times, businesses need to maximise all available growth opportunities – making sure their workforce is adequately skilled is key.
Manufacturing and engineering need to recruit 82,000 new engineers, scientists and technicians between now and 2016. The talent pool is shrinking demographically so employers now need to look at an untapped resource: women.
Females represent half the UK workforce but only account currently for 21% of these key sectors. According to The Women and Work Commission, removing barriers to help women work in occupations traditionally filled by men is vital, and could be worth up to £23 billion a year to the UK economy.
But why should businesses invest in developing female talent in male-dominated sectors? Research from management consulting firm McKinsey reveals that more gender-diverse companies exceed operating results compared with similar firms with no female senior managers – by an average of 56%.
Semta researched what female employees saw as barriers to getting on in engineering and manufacturing: top of the list was a lack of female role models and gender-specific training.
With this in mind, Semta, in partnership with the Employer Investment Fund created by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), recently expanded its Career Advancement and Progression Programme across the UK, and introduced a new qualification at Level 3 (VRQ). Semta is now promoting the programme and qualification to help employers address gender imbalance.
The qualification tackles a number of different priorities but, essentially, focuses on helping talented women at all levels in an organisation to further their careers by analysing their current position in the workplace and identifying objectives for future progression. However, the benefits of this programme are not just exclusive to the participants – it also helps businesses to gain a better understanding of possible barriers within their workplace faced by their female employees.
Thus far, the Semta programme has supported 1,300 women throughout the UK, from companies including Aston Martin, Babcock Marine, Bentley, GE Aviation, JLR, Johnson Controls, Mahle and ThyssenKrupp. All have benefited from the opportunity to develop female talent, while promoting workplace diversity in their organisations.
Following the programme, 88% of learners said they felt it had improved their confidence.
The Level 3 award covers many elements, but centres on allowing women to take stock of their career and develop future plans for the rest of their career. The award supports women to build confidence to communicate in the male-dominated workplace. This will allow participants the opportunity to learn how to become more visible at work, maximising the possibility for recognition and career advancement.
Businesses need to ensure they are getting the most out of all employees to improve competitiveness in a global marketplace.
There are many well-rewarded opportunities in our key sectors and a fulfilling career path should be attractive to all – regardless of gender.
Houlder is a leading independent engineering design consultancy, specialising in the defence, marine and offshore markets. The business – which employs 58 members of staff across a number of sites including London, Portsmouth, Aberdeen, Bristol and Tyneside – made a commitment four years ago to introduce a performance management system and analyse training needs.
Semta's Career Advancement and Progression initiative enabled the business to implement a programme which was able to support skills development to realise the potential of their female staff. Houlder discovered the benefits as a number of women completed the Semta programme with positive results.
Margot Freeman, HR manager, confirms: "The Semta programme has benefited Houlder as a business. It has motivated employees and helped build a cohesive team among the minority female group within the company, drawing in staff from regional offices. This has improved communications. In one case, it has helped a career move from administration into finance as part of the company's succession planning process."
0845 643 9001 www.semta.org.uk
Susan Evans, business development manager, Semta
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