Birkenhead shipyard and marine engineering services company Cammell Laird will open its doors to young women in a special event on June 28 to encourage female engineers.
The world famous Birkenhead shipbuilder and neighbouring Engineering College have joined forces to showcase the work of female engineers to students from sixth forms in the area to mark International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) 2019.
The guests will embark on a tour of polar research vessel RRS Sir David Attenborough, currently being built at the shipyard, as well as hearing about life at Cammell Laird from several of its top staff. The event comes as Cammell Laird prepares to launch a recruitment drive for apprentices and aims to demonstrate the world of opportunities available in engineering.
Cammell Laird chief operating officer Tony Graham urged local women interested in learning more about engineering careers to register for the event.
“Cammell Laird has always had a strong female presence across departments of the company,” he said. “However, we do want to encourage more young women to think of engineering as a career and this event will give a real insight into what it is like to work here. Engineering is now more open than it has ever been to women and we have a number of female engineers who are flourishing in their jobs who will be giving presentations. Engineering offers a varied, rewarding career for women with an opportunity to grow and stretch themselves undertaking fascinating work. Cammell Laird is one of the most exciting places to work in our region and our female engineers play an important role bringing a different outlook as well as skills. Women engineers and female workers make Cammell Laird a better business and we very much look forward to showcasing what we have to offer.”
The day will begin with a tour of the neighbouring Engineering College, where Cammell Laird apprentices carry out their training. Attendees will get to grips with welding tasks using virtual reality sets as well as experiencing activities using computer-aided design.
Terry Weston, chief executive of the Engineering College, said it has teamed up with Cammell Laird to stage the event to ensure a more diverse group of people would consider engineering in the future.
He said: “We want to send out the message that engineering isn’t gender specific and that there are endless opportunities for anyone within our industry. The college offers training in the heavy side of engineering but also in clean engineering – more office-based roles – as well. There’s a massive misconception that engineering is all carried out outdoors or in a workshop, with heavy machinery, so we’re trying to highlight the other routes an engineering career can take you down. We look for people interested in maths and science, but also those who are good at communicating and problem solving, and this day is about changing perceptions by saying that it doesn’t matter what you look like, it’s all about how you are in those areas.”
Claire Biggar, assistant ship manager, joined Cammell Laird 18 months ago and will be speaking at the event. Claire spent six years in the Royal Navy. She said: “Shipbuilding and ship repair is an industry many people don’t know a lot about and engineers, generally, are declining. We want to open our doors to young women to let them into our world and highlight the career paths available at Cammell Laird.”
Having travelled the world with the navy, Claire, a mum of one, finished her forces career aboard the Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier as a weapons engineer, having started on an electrical engineering apprenticeship. Her role, which is six days a week, currently involves the construction of the RRS Sir David Attenborough, mainly overseeing the painting of the vessel.
She said: “I love being in the shipyard, it’s a great environment to be in, and I can see a long career for me with Cammell Laird. I work in overalls and a hard hat and I don’t mind getting my hands dirty, but I have my nails and hair done too and when I go home at night, I’m a mum again.
“A highlight for me so far was when we launched the Sir David Attenborough, being on the deck and seeing everything we’d worked for. There’s always a new challenge here and every day is different. It doesn’t matter that we’re women, we’re just members of the workforce when we’re here.”
Colleague Kirsten Blood will also be presenting at the event. Kirsten was 17 when she joined the business as an apprentice mechanical fitter nine years ago, having decided the university route wasn’t for her. After working in the tooling department, she is now a quality inspector overseeing that area of the business. Her role involves working on the ships that come in to be repaired or refitted for several weeks at a time, meaning the environment is fast-paced and ever-changing. Advantages, she said, are the diverse ages of colleagues meaning there is always someone to learn from.
She said: “Every ship that comes in is different, with new steelwork, welds and pipework for me to learn about before I have to write written reports, which means I’m increasing my skills all the time. When a ship comes in for a refit we rip everything out and replace it, so it’s a proud moment when we watch that vessel go back into the water.”
One particular recent highlight for Kirsten was fitting a moon pool to the supply ship Toisa Vigilant to allow submarines to be lowered and raised. She said: “That was here for five weeks and we were working 12-hour shifts alongside naval architects, so it was a really exciting project to be part of.”
The benefits to the job are wide-ranging, and Kirsten believes more women could build long-lasting careers in engineering.
She said: “I go to meetings and I might be the only woman in a room of 20 and I think that shouldn’t be the case.”
The International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) event takes place on Friday June 28 from 12 noon, aimed at girls in sixth form. To register an interest in attending, contact Cammell Laird: 0151 649 6600