Women form half the UK workforce but, according to new research from The Institution of Engineering and Technology, just six per cent of engineers are female.

Change is called for as the strategically important sectors of manufacturing and engineering need to recruit 82,000 new scientists, engineers and technologists by 2016 and companies are reporting difficulties in recruiting suitably skilled staff.

Encouraging women into the workforce and supporting their career development could help fill these vacancies and nurture new untapped female talent.

So what is the problem? Semta research among existing female employees found that a lack of female role models and gender specific training were the challenges women face in entering and staying in the engineering and manufacturing industry.

Semta’s solution is a Career Advancement and Progression Programme which could be equally successful in tackling gender imbalance in other sectors.

Addressing the stark gender mismatch could lead to big economic benefits. The Women and Work Commission has calculated that removing barriers to help women work in occupations traditionally filled by men could be worth up to £23 billion a year to the UK economy.

The Semta Career Advancement and Progression Programme is backed by a nationally recognised qualification from awarding organisation EAL, and is available across the UK. It supports women in any role in industry to analyse their current position and helps them to identify individual objectives for future progression. In addition to equipping participants with the skills and confidence to tackle specific gender behaviour traits, the qualification also helps the businesses to understand and address possible organisational barriers to their female employees.

So far, around 1,300 women in leading engineering companies such as BAE Systems, Jaguar Land Rover, Atkins and Airbus, have benefited from the Programme, with well over half reporting they have taken on more responsibility (58 per cent) while a fifth of participants (18 per cent) moved to a new role. The vast majority of participating women (88 per cent) said they have more confidence and self-belief since completing the programme.

Semta’s programme is delivered through workshops over three days at a location and frequency to suit business needs. It represents an important and successful step in encouraging more women to consider a career in the economically important, wealth producing, manufacturing and engineering sectors.

By helping women working in a male dominated industry, Semta believes more female role models will be created. In turn this will encourage this untapped resource to consider the career opportunities that are offered in engineering and manufacturing.

Firms interested in finding out how the Career Advancement and Progression Programme could support their business strategy can visit www.semta.org.uk/advance or contact Semta customer services on 0845 643 9001.