Women in STEM at Cronton Sixth Form College

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In the midst of a significant transformation in the way we design and create things, Cronton Sixth Form College is embracing the digitization of manufacturing.

Built around the newest BTEC Engineering specification, the college’s IDEA Centre is a brand new state of the art building which aims to rejuvenate students’ interest in STEM by using some of the most advanced industry standard equipment and methods.

From prototyping to 3D printers, students now have access to the latest digital fabrication equipment, enabling them to excel in STEM subjects. Jo Hall, Deputy Head of Engineering at the college, has been working hard to ensure the new facility is available to all students.

“Some research states that by the age of seven, girls have already become disengaged with STEM learning.”

Jo Hall, Deputy Head of Engineering at Cronton Sixth Form College

From introducing them to inspirational role models at business networking events to partnering with local employers to showcase non-traditional career pathways, the extra-curricular activities are just as important for the learners when it comes to helping them explore their career options.

“So, as a department, we are working with local primary schools in order to engage students in exciting activities such as programming, robotics, and computer aided design.”

Not only do these topics appeal to students of all ages, but they also allow them to envision the jobs of the future. Level 3 BTEC Engineering students Freya and Elizabeth recently took part in the Inspire Summit at Bridgewater Hall in Manchester. Presentations, panel discussions, and lively debates focused on the future of women in the industry, and students were able to speak to influential industry experts as well as organise work experience and mentoring opportunities.

Cronton College’s iniatives to encourage more girls to study STEM begin at an early age. The engineering department in particular has close ties to primary and secondary schools in the area, allowing them to guide students’ from KS1 up to KS5. The college works closely with its feeder secondary schools, offering sample sessions to students as a way of highlighting the exciting career options made available through STEM subjects, as well as showcasing the equipment at their disposal.

Dr Sonia Tandon, who teaches the new BTEC Engineering qualification, strongly believes that achieving gender equality in STEM is all about showing students the exciting range of new career pathways available.

“Girls traditionally always think that STEM subjects are for men, which they are not. STEM subjects are for everybody. They allow people to grow, they allow people to innovate, they allow people to be creative, and I think girls can be as equal innovators and creators as boys. We live in a modern world where we have 3D printers, robots... and that allows students to think further from the traditional engineering roles.”

Through moulding the BTEC Engineering framework around local industry needs, students are able to cultivate skills that are directly applicable to their career aspirations. Not only can they explore various roles within the STEM industry, but they can also tailor the qualification to their strengths and interests due to the range of optional units.

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