In an event that put a new spin on career guidance, QUT’s Power of Engineering hosted a speed-networking session in which 25 female engineers mentored 100 high school girls as they rode the Channel Seven Wheel of Brisbane.
The event was held on the eve of International Women’s Day as part of QUT’s program to encourage girls to embark on a career in engineering.
The Power of Engineering program has held 30 events since 2012 and reached 2648 students, explaining the attraction of a career in engineering.
The program has had dramatic results, with research showing that 76 per cent of students who had attended a Power of Engineering event on QUT campus saying it had strongly influenced their decision on what to study.
Simone Long, from QUT’s Science and Engineering Faculty, said the unique networking session on the Channel Seven Wheel of Brisbane followed a morning of hands-on workshops at QUT for the Year 9 and Year 10 students from Brisbane State High School, Macgregor State High School, Citipointe Christian College and Southern Cross Catholic College.
The sky-high networking involved four school students, a female engineer working in the industry and a QUT engineering student or teacher in each of the wheel’s gondolas.
During the hour-long networking session, the school students were mentored by at least three women working in engineering.
“This is about showcasing engineering as an attractive career by using aspirational role models,” Ms Long said.
“It’s talking to the students about some of the interesting and cool things they could do.”
Before the event, Brisbane State High School Year 9 student Aemelia Riley said she was looking forward to seeing the Brisbane skyline during the networking session and speaking to all types of engineers.
“I think that hearing from actual engineers who will share their knowledge and experiences will help us learn the ins and outs of what an engineering career might look like,” Aemelia said.
Fiona Wyer, who is a second-year QUT engineering student, said the key to cutting through to teenage girls about the key advantages of engineering was to engage with them early in high school.
“Events such as Power of Engineering allow female students to learn what engineering is. It also gives them an invaluable opportunity to hear from women working in these fields,” Ms Wyer said.
“This allows for students to understand the many advantages engineering can bring to women and that women bring to engineering.
“A lot of students can see what doctors do and what teachers do, and this goes for a lot of other professions. However, for STEM careers, and particularly within engineering there is no one job that defines an engineer.
“The networking on the wheel is such a great idea! It is exciting to see how this will help students to learn and engage with engineers in a setting very different to a classroom.”
With the broadest portfolio in the Australian aerospace industry, Boeing recognises the role it needs to play in supporting career pathways into STEM and advancing gender inclusion in the workplace.
Boeing electrical engineer Alice Sheaves, who was mentoring the girls on the Wheel, said her key message was the girls should aim for a future in something that they find interesting and rewarding.
“There are so many opportunities out there in the STEM industry and it is still growing, who knows where you will end up?” Ms Sheaves said.
“I chose engineering specifically because I thought it would give me the most freedom and versatility for what I could work on.”
As for the unusual networking location, Ms Sheaves said the format was a winner.
“Being stuck in a capsule with a great view and a few strangers is sure to lead to some interesting conversation,” Ms Sheaves said.
“Networking can be a particularly stressful and daunting task for the more introverted among us.
“I think networking while riding the wheel will facilitate a more relaxed conversation than a typical networking event.”
Previous Power of Engineering events has shown that Year 9 and Year 10 students have key questions about the role of engineers: what do you do each day, who do you work with and what kind of projects are you working on.
Ms Long said the engineering mentors explained to the school students that donning a hard hat to visit a construction site was typically only a small part of the job for engineers.
“Engineering is all about teamwork, it’s all about being creative, it’s about project management,” Ms Long said.
The mentors taking part in the networking event come from 32 companies: Arcadis; ARUP; Aurecon; Bligh Tanner; Brisbane Airport Corporation; Boeing; Caltex; Cook Medical; Energex; Field Orthopaedics; Hatch; Lendlease; Queensland Rail; Strategic Engineering; Telstra; Transport Main Roads; Transurban.
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