Blackburn engineer helps students learn about science careers

6:00pm Tuesday 20th November 2012

By Lisa Woodhouse

A FEMALE engineer is working with secondary schools to promote the ‘real life’ advantages of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) qualifications.

Helen Heggie, 40, set up STEMFirst last year to provide state-funded secondary schools with a central hub in which to access links to these industries across Lancashire, backed by government funding.

Backed by companies such as KPMG, BAE Systems, Rolls Royce, NHS, Aircelle and Burnley College, the Blackburn-based company acts as a free-of-charge facilitator between schools. It offers access to ambassadors who work in the STEM industries, skills advice and details of funding streams.

The company has proved so popular, it has been shortlisted for the STEM advisory category of the annual WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) Awards 2012.

Helen said: “I have always been passionate about engineering and my aim is to break down pre-conceptions about jobs and encourage more young people to enter the field.

“When I finished university around 20 years ago, there weren’t many women in engineering. There are more girls interested now, but there is still quite a long way to go. To work in a male dominated environment, it has to interest you. We don’t want girls to reject engineering and science careers without being fully informed. We don’t want the traditional stereotypes to frighten them away from what might be a great career move.”

Helen said her STEM background had encouraged her to want to inspire others to embark on a career in engineering and technology. She said: “Schools used to see STEM as extra curricular, but now it’s embedded across the whole school provision amd the benefits can be seen.

“It’s important to make the skills relevant to real life and enable students to apply their learnings to everyday life. For example, a lot of hair and beauty students don’t realise the importance of maths - but its essential when working out dilutions for hair die and special promotions.

“STEMFirst is helping schools join the dots between learning in the classroom and real industry.”

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