A Design for Life: Atkins Outlines Opportunities to Engineers of the Future

Issued: Wed, 01 Jul 2015 16:26:00 BST

In a predominately male orientated industry, such as engineering, it can be difficult to encourage females with the requisite talent to see it as a viable opportunity. Atkins’ Glasgow office, however, is reaping the benefits of an increased female workforce and clearly has a mandate to change the status quo in this respect. In an effort to encourage further female uptake – while retaining its essential male cohort – they held their first STEM Night for high school pupils on the 15th June.

The brainchild of graduate engineer Paula Breslin, herself an active STEM Ambassador, who elected to structure the night around simulated engineering projects, combined with spirited presentations from experienced industry professionals. Paula was also ably assisted by Heraa Anwar and James Brewster – both members of Atkins’ STEM Committee – and contacted Science Connects looking for participants to be involved in this pilot project and was put in touch with schools that typically don’t receive a lot of STEM Ambassador attention Trinity High, Cathkin High and Kilsyth and Stewarton Academies.

Around 15 young students and teachers attended and enjoyed pizza as business management director Neil Aitken gave a brief but passionate introduction. He reflected on the worthwhile aims of engineering and his own reasons for studying the subject as a student himself, he said “engineering is such a good career to have and I have never once regretted studying it. I like to work things out…how could you not want to work things out?”

A presentation by James Brewster, principal engineer in Atkins’ oil and gas division, followed in which he outlined the size and scope of Atkins and the career path that a prospective employee could hope to take such as project management, business management or business development. James accepted the industry’s reputation for being male dominated and spoke about it in such a way that it was clear that this is a reputation Atkins very much want to consign to history.

Organiser Paula Breslin suggested that nights like these were an opportunity for Atkins, and indeed engineering as a whole, to address not only the lack of female uptake but the past failure of the industry to encourage young, fresh talent at a secondary school level:


“No one came into my school and told me about engineering. I had to find out about it by myself in the Uni of Strathclyde prospectus. Once I discovered it though, I realised how important, interesting and varied it is. That’s what these STEM nights are about; it’s about giving young people the opportunity to see what options are out there before they leave school.”

Not only beneficial for the students, teacher Iain Pettigrew of Stewarton Academy described the night as “most enjoyable and informative, especially for me as it’s easy for a teacher to forget about the outside world.” ‘Outside’ being the operative word in this case as too often students leave high school unsure about where the future leads. Nights such as these, however, with two engaging speakers and educational team workshops help to reveal a potential path and a positive future.

If you would like to organise a STEM Night within your business or school please contact Science Connects at stem-ambassadors@glasgow.ac.uk

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