What does an engineer really do?
Women in STEM An education in engineering can help to improve lives and make society a better place to live in. Here, Marguerite Sayers, Managing Director at ESB Networks, a subsidiary of ESB Group, explains.
“Many people gravitate towards job opportunities where there’s a demand for certain skills,” says Sayers, “and there’s certainly a shortage of engineering skills in the world.”
For Sayers, it is vital for people to recognise, not only these demands for engineers, but also how such roles contribute to society.
“We need engineers to solve a lot of the growing issues such as climate change, advancements in medical devices, infrastructure development and creating a low carbon future, which is the core function for ESB over the next few years.
“Then there’s technology in our homes, our transport and the construction of roads - they’re all developments by engineers. Engineering is about trying to find improvements for society – if you’re interested in helping people and society and you have a strong analytical mind, then it’s a good career to consider.”
Demystifying the role
Mathematical knowledge is essential in engineering, such as in developing and testing electrical equipment, but Sayers says that, frequently, students – particularly girls – are talked out of studying at honours level.
“Some parents might say it can ‘take up too much of a student’s time’ or others say that they ‘need to be getting A’s’. It doesn’t take up time and you don’t need to be a maths genius - if you have an aptitude for maths, you should stick with it.
“Many people also have the impression of an engineer being someone in a hard hat, working in a dusty location. Having become an engineer and moving up the ladder to a managerial position, I do spend time on-site occasionally, but I’m mostly in the office.
“But, going on-site and see something practical happening and taking shape is a fulfilling part of the job. Engineering is about figuring things out, innovation, efficiency and making sure something takes fruition. Whether indoors or outdoors, you can decide what you prefer - it’s a diverse career.”
Sayers says this is why we need to reach out to girls at a young age, so that they are aware of these opportunities they could have in the future.
“During ‘Engineers Week’, we encourage young people to consider engineering as a career. ESB Group have an engagement programme in primary schools, to try to get students to understand electricity and its role. In secondary schools, we have a ‘Women in Engineering’ programme for Transtion Year students, where they get the opportunity to meet a number of successful engineers. A number of engineers are also involved in school visits programme’
ESB Group is currently the biggest employer of engineers in Ireland, with 850 engineers working there, however just 15 per cent of those are females.
“We have apprenticeships for network technicians and we’ve 60 positions to fill. This year, we’ve had an increase in the number of female applicants, so that’s positive.
“There’s no sector of society that engineers haven’t played a role in improving and we think it’s really important to get this message out and explain this to people, especially to girls, so it’s something they consider.”
ESB operates right across the electricity market: from generation, through transmission and distribution to the supply of customers with an expanding presence in the Great Britain generation market. In addition we extract further value through supplying gas and using our networks to carry fibre for telecommunications. ESB is the owner of the distribution and transmission networks in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. It has a 47% share of generation in the all-island market and a 37% share of electricity supply in the all-island market with 1.4 million customer accounts.