“It’s no different for girls - on site you’re respected for being able to do the job”
Think civil engineering is just a job for the boys? Then think again.
Women are still under-represented in the profession, but anyone who drives along Hatters Way on a daily basis may well have spotted a few female workers along the Luton Dunstable Busway route.
One of them is site engineer Jennie Morgan, who is among four female engineers currently employed on the £89 million project.
She has been working on one of the trickiest aspects of the scheme, the changes to the Clifton Road bridge, which crosses Hatters Way at the back of Kenilworth Road.
And 25-year-old took a break from her hard hat and hi-vis to tell the Luton News what it’s like being a woman in the industry.
Jennie, who hails from north-west London, said she decided on a career in engineering when choosing what to study at university.
“I enjoyed maths and physics at school, and I was interested in architecture and building things.
“And from a practical point of view I thought it might have good job prospects,” she said.
And starting salaries for graduates are certainly good, at £22,000 to £26,000, rising to up to £55,000 at senior level.
After completing her A levels in maths, physics and geography, she worked for construction and engineering giant Sir Robert McAlpine on a year in industry scheme, before going on to study civil and structural engineering at the University of Leeds.
She was lucky enough to have her studies sponsored by busway contractor BAM Nuttall, thanks to a scheme run by the Institution of Civil Engineers.
“On the course it was between a quarter and a third female, but a larger proportion of women go into design and work for consultancies, fewer work on site for contractors,” said Jennie.
“During my summer holidays I would work with BAM on placements and that reinforced my idea that I wanted to work on site.
“It’s a more relaxed atmosphere than working in an office and every day is different.”
So what’s it like being a woman in a mainly male environment?
“I don’t think it’s any different from being a man working in this industry,” she said. “Sometimes I get people who are a bit surprised but I’ve found the experience on site is the same for any young engineer, male or female.
“I’d say you need to have quite a confident personality and you need to be able to deal with getting a bit of stick, but everyone gets that.
“You get respect for being able to do the job.”
She says she would recommend a career in engineering to anyone who enjoys a varied workload and problem solving, saying: “You could be working on coastal defences, or demolishing a car park, or a busway.”
It’s rarely glamorous, of course – Jennie’s work on the Cambridge busway saw her assigned to culverts on a nature reserve.
But the job satisfaction is second to none, she says.
“It’s quite nice being able to see a project through from start to finish, which you don’t always get in other fields.
“You’re able to go past a project you’ve worked on and say, ‘I built that’.”
Want to find out more about a career in engineering? Visit www.theukrc.org/wise
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Saturday 25 May 2013
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