While only 13% of the scholarship applicants were female, 19% of the scholarships awarded went to women, making for a positive development in a sector traditionally dominated by men

Record number of UKESF scholarships awarded

UKESF awards record number of scholarships to electronic engineering students

A record number of scholarships have just been awarded to undergraduate electronic engineering students by the UK Electronics Skills Foundation (UKESF) for the academic year 2014/15. This year another sixty-nine top students at thirteen of the UK’s leading universities for electronics are being sponsored by twenty-three companies in the electronics engineering sector, and will be undertaking a broad variety of stimulating work placements with them.

While only 13% of the scholarship applicants were female, 19% of the scholarships awarded went to women, making for a positive development in a sector traditionally dominated by men. Less than 10% of students undertaking electronic engineering degrees at UK universities are female,1 a trend that continues in an industry, where less than 10% of engineering professionals are women.2 The supply of engineering skills in the UK is not meeting the current or predicted needs of the industry,3 so increasing the number of female engineers would play an important part in resolving this issue.

The Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC) is sponsoring four scholarships for 2014/15, two of which are with female students. Second-year student, Fiona Moore, at the University of Southampton, has been awarded one of the STFC scholarships and is studying an MEng degree in Electronic Engineering. Fiona said, “I’m looking forward to working with STFC and discovering what electronics is like outside of a purely academic environment. I really appreciate this opportunity to gain industry experience and first-hand knowledge of a variety of electronics technologies, which will help me make informed decisions in my degree options and future career.”

The UK electronics industry is a world-leader, and a healthy British engineering industry is key to the success of the UK economy. The electronics industry is estimated to contribute £78 billion per annum and employs over 850,000 people,4 but has the potential to grow considerably if the demand for engineering skills is met. As the number of UK students undertaking electronic engineering degrees has fallen by 40% over the last decade, however, the need to address the gender skills gap takes on increasing significance.

Dr John McLean, Head of STFC’s Microelectronics Support Centre said, “To address the challenges facing the electronic engineering industry today it has become more important than ever to ensure talented individuals are sought out across a diverse pool. By actively doing this, we at STFC’s Microelectronics Support Centre have been able to reduce our skills shortages with 50% of our technical staff now being women. The success of the young ladies awarded UKESF scholarships this year demonstrates that opportunities are available to all, and that anyone with an interest in science and technology should not be afraid to pursue it.”

Launched in 2010, UKESF has since awarded over 240 scholarships and currently works with a total twenty-eight sponsoring companies in the electronics sector. This high level of employer support for UKESF scholarships demonstrates the demand for electronic engineering graduates, who are vital for maintaining the UK’s position as a world leader in the electronics industry, and indicates to students the value of early engagement with potential employers.

1. Engineering Report UK, 2015, p. 173

2. Perkin’s Review, 2013, p. 15

3. Engineering Report UK, 2015, p. xii

4. ESCO Report, 2013, p. 3