Year ten girls from across the country had a unique insight into the Royal Air Force when
they spent a few days experiencing science and engineering trades at RAF Leeming.
The four-day residential course was designed to give the 15 and 16-year-olds a taste of RAF life and teamwork while providing on-hands experience of the breadth of science and engineering careers available.
Visiting sections across the North Yorkshire station, the girls tried their hand at wiring a tent with lighting, changing the wheel of a Land Rover and conducting functional checks on out of service Tornado GR4 jets.
There was even the opportunity to try out welding and conducting speed checks with the RAF police.
While the event was one of just two held for females in 2015, it was one of a growing number being run across the RAF to encourage young people into some of the UK’s most-needed career groups.
Squadron Leader Glyn Dean has been working on programmes to encourage more females and ethnic groups into STEM careers for around six years.
Her work has led to partnerships with Sheffield Hallam University and the British Science Association, and organisations such as STEMNET and the WISE Campaign.
She said: “The RAF has an aspiration for our work force to be more reflective of the society we serve – and than means better representation from females and different ethnicities.
“I think there is a growing understanding in the education system that STEM skills are essential to economic survival.
“The market for those with STEM skills is very competitive and those who offer the most are likely to get them. We try to introduce students to STEM careers as part of the overall RAF experience.”
Students on the RAF Leeming course had earned their place by submitting a personal statement.
Alongside practical work, they also had to complete workbooks and a presentation, earning them Industry Cadet Silver and British Science Association Bronze Crest awards.
Sqn Ldr Dean said: “The original course was developed with WISE and it has morphed since then, but the original concept is still good. It’s about letting them handle equipment and try different things – they get to talk to role models who are young men and women.
“We also try to enhance their employability by sending them away with a good portfolio of evidence.”
Although very intense and tiring, the girls on the course agreed it had been great fun and a bit of an eye-opener.
Brittany, 15, said: “I’ve learned so much in a short space of time.
“I came here not knowing anyone but we did some team building and all made friends quickly.”
Siya, 15, added: “I’m interested in STEM careers but not sure what I want to do.
“I wasn’t expecting to do so much. We installed a motor light system in a tent and got to grips with an electronics system.
“It was a good experience.”
Sqn Ldr Dean added: “There is a strong business case to get women into under-represented STEM areas – particularly engineering.
“I tell the girls to milk the experience for all its worth, because why shouldn’t it be them?”