Female students glimpse life as an engineer

A site visit to the No 5 blast furnace at BlueScope Steel during yesterday's heatwave gave a group of female high school students a rather extreme insight into the working life of engineers.

School students Tori Costello (left) and Claire Canham at BlueScope Steel's Port Kembla Steelworks. Picture: ORLANDO CHIODO

School students Tori Costello (left) and Claire Canham at BlueScope Steel's Port Kembla Steelworks. Picture: ORLANDO CHIODO

But the young women on the Port Kembla Steelworks field trip, part of the University of Wollongong's annual Women in Engineering Summit, were still smiling under their hard hats and protective glasses.

"It was hot, very hot," said 15-year-old Claire Canham of St Patrick's College at Campbelltown.

"But engineering is not really a glamorous or girly job.

"That's why a lot of people are surprised when I tell them that's what I want to do, but I think more women need to get into engineering to break down the stereotypes.

"Plus there's plenty of opportunities and challenges for women who do get into the industry. I want to get into mining engineering, which will give me lots of travel opportunities and enable me to see the earth from a different perspective, and see where we get our resources from."

Figtree High School student Tori Costello's interest in mining engineering prompted her to join in the week-long summit, which also includes site visits to Sea Cliff Bridge and RailCorp's rail freight facilities in Wollongong.

"I've always been interested in mining or environmental engineering," Tori, 17, said.

"This summit has been really informative so far, and given us a lot of information on the different engineering disciplines and careers available."

The UOW Women in Engineering Summit has been held annually since 2009 to encourage girls to consider a career in the male-dominated industry.

Organiser Dr Laura Banasiak, from the UOW School of Civil, Mining and Environmental Engineering, said 42 students from across NSW had joined up this year.

"A recent survey showed that there's only 7 per cent women in the engineering workforce in Australia," Dr Banasiak said.

"So we really need to boost the numbers of female engineers, as women not only make fantastic engineers, they also have the ability to multi-task and see things from a different perspective.

"And women use all the infrastructure and technology available, so they should be able to have an input into the design and manufacture of that."

As well as the site visits, students taking part in the summit will be exploring the university's world-class engineering facilities and visiting the Wollongong Science Centre to conduct some experiments in superconductivity.