Attracting more women to a career in welding
Claire Spillane, Finance Director at Westermans International, discusses diversifying the welding industry.
Training as a welder can open up opportunities to work in a diverse range of sectors from construction and manufacturing to aerospace and petrochemical industries.
But despite there being a demand for welding skills, women are still underrepresented in the profession.
There is currently a shortage of welders in Britain and the Migratory Advisory Committee states that 13% of welders in Britain come from the European Economic Area.
This is likely to impact the country’s ambitions to build more infrastructure such as more roads and railways in coming years. Construction of the new Hinkley Point power station, for example, will need at least 500 welders, according to EDF’s workforce development director Guy Hazlehurst.
This shortage arguably makes attracting more women into the profession even more important because it can help widen the pool of people to recruit to fill this skills gap.
Attracting more women to become welders
But there have been improvements made to recruiting women to STEM roles in recent years. It is expected that by 2030 30% of core STEM roles will be filled by women.
WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) has put together a 10 step initiative to help recruit and retain women in STEM roles. They recommend taking steps such as making jobs more attractive by offering flexible working and sponsoring female talent to the same extent as male talent.
Educational outreach programs can also help attract women to welding. As part of The Welding Institute’s education outreach work, they have put together a series of learning activities and programmes that start at primary school and go all the way to postgraduate level. These include work experience placements, science fairs and hands-on workshops.
Efforts are also being made to change society’s preconceived ideas of what job roles are suitable for women. In the US, the hashtag #Ilooklikeanengineer is being used to change gender stereotypes, for example.
Existing female welders can also play an important part when attracting more young girls to the profession. They can serve as role models to young girls who are considering what job they want to do in future.
A female welding apprentice shares her experience
Megan Clough, who is doing a welding apprenticeship at Riverside College in Widnes, shared her experience with us.
Megan said: “Although I have been accepted, at first I didn’t know what to expect. I needed to understand and accept the men’s personal views about me coming into their workplace. I am the first female to work on their shop floor in over 30 years!
“I felt great pressure to show it was worthwhile giving me the apprenticeship.”
The apprenticeship has given Megan the chance to learn lots of welding skills, including following instructions from drawings and calculating dimensions.
She has also learnt to operate several types of machinery including a guillotine, drills and saws and she has grown confident in her abilities. But it hasn’t been plain sailing.
“The trust was hard to begin with, I was constantly unable to do certain things.
“Now, I can be asked to do something I’ve never done before and be trusted to get on with it independently. I get a huge amount of satisfaction when I see the end result of a product I have personally hand made with no assistance.”
She now also feels like one of the team: “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed building relationships with the older generation of welders and challenging stereotypes about women working in welding.”
And she advocates doing an apprenticeship if you want a career in welding.
“I would definitely advise younger people to look into doing an apprenticeship because it’s an effective way of earning while you learn. You get real, hands-on experience while gaining impressive qualifications and not having the hassle of being in debt!
“Many people are unaware that apprenticeships can lead to degrees and other types of further education. Our generation is in high demand in the trades because they are essential to our world in a wide variety of ways.”
She is also optimistic about the future for women in welding: “There is so much support for girls who are involved in this industry.
“There’s a big push for equality and diversity in the workplace, so it’s important for girls to realise they can live in a man’s world and do the exact same things men can do and even do them better!”
Start your welding training
Training to become a welder typically involves doing an apprenticeship, although there are other routes into the profession, including completing a full-time training course.
Andy James, who Head Of School for Engineering & Motor Vehicle at Riverside College says: “Riverside College is a forward-thinking and progressive further education provider, we value our female engineers and actively seek to support and build confidence both inside and outside of college.
“We have seen a rise in the number of female applications to the college for both our full time and apprenticeship provision, this is in part due to our current female engineers, such as Megan acting as student representatives; happy to encourage others considering the engineering industry.”
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Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.