Today marks the end of Engineering Week, the national week celebrating just one of the industries which has seen a significant upturn in the number of female employees in recent years. The uptake in women working in Engineering has happened in many different ways, but for three students in particular - Megan Gardiner, Orla Coyle and Coblaith McKenna – it has been something of a shared journey.

The trio took their first steps into Engineering at the same registration day at South West College in September 2018, where having successfully completed A-Levels and BTECs at their respective schools, and having received offers for direct entry to universities, all three decided to take their first tentative steps in civil engineering by enrolling for a Foundation Degree. Almost immediately, the trio formed a bond through education and friendship, and during the two years since, they have won a number of scholarships, bursaries and awards between them.

Orla described how South West College proved the perfect starting point for her engineering journey. She said. “I had originally considered nursing as a career, until I spent a period of time on placement with Fox Contracts while I was still at school. I decided to enrol at South West College and am delighted I did. All of the lecturing staff were extremely friendly and helpful from the start, giving me guidance and encouragement when I needed it. During my time at the college, I was also fortunate enough to be awarded the prestigious Quest Technician Scholarship from the Institution of Civil Engineers, and this gave me great encouragement as well as invaluable support.”

One of the greatest challenges Megan, Orla and Cobliath faced was at the beginning of the second year of their studies, when they were required to secure mandatory placement employment for at least six months. Whilst there have major advances in gender equality, there is still the perception that civil engineering is a male dominated industry, particularly for site activities. Totally undeterred, the trio secured site-based placements with some of the largest companies in the country. Megan worked for Farrans; Orla worked for Fox Contracts; and Coblaith was employed by Adman Civils.

Megan said: “My experience at South West College has been invaluable for my career development and in getting me where I am today. I loved every minute of my time at the college and I miss it daily, but the placement factor was also hugely important. SWC gave me the grounding I needed and since then, during my time with Farrans, I have gained invaluable experience and a practical understanding of the Engineering industry.’

Megan, Orla and Coblaith were the top three students in their final year at SWC and are now studying for their Honours Degrees in Civil Engineering at Queens University, having gained direct entry into Year 2. It has been a remarkable joruney for all three of them.

Coblaith added, “Throughout my time at SWC I progressed my learning through the teaching and direction of the excellent staff, which contributed massively to my enjoyment of the course. In my placement working for Adman I gained an even better understanding of what i'd been taught, because it was easier to understand things taught in the classroom when you saw them happening on the ground. I was awarded the SSE Airtricity Scholarship, which is based on an assessment of your past achievements, your present commitment and your future aspirations. It makes me proud of what i've achieved so far and also excited for what can happen next."

Find out more about Engineering at South West College at the South West College website.