HNC Mechanical Engineering student Jennifer Wilson was recently appointed as the Interconnect Scotland Student Champion for Ayrshire College.
Interconnect Scotland is a network for women studying science, engineering, technology (STEM) and the built environment across Scotland. It encourages students to set up their own networks at their college or university.
Interconnect Student Champions are ambassadors for STEM within their college or university, and promote Interconnect activities locally.
Ayrshire Connects is Ayrshire College’s network for female STEM students and it was launched by senior NASA manager Sarah Murray on 13 June 2016. Ayrshire Connects will connect female students studying STEM, construction and trades courses across the College with each other, with students in other colleges and universities, and with inspiring women in industry.
In this article, Jen talks about what motivated her to study engineering and her new role as Interconnect Student Champion.
My interest stems from school
My interest in STEM subjects started when I was a pupil at James Hamilton Academy in Kilmarnock. I leaned towards technical subjects like Graphic Communications and Woodwork; as well as creative subjects like Photography and Art and Design. I am naturally quite a curious person and enjoy finding out how things work. Design and technology are such a huge part of everyday life now from the technology we carry, to how we travel and create entertainment. Studying these subjects made school a very enjoyable experience for me.
I had a fantastic teacher at school who encouraged me to do my best and I left school with three Highers and two Advanced Highers. When it came to choosing a career path, I looked at teaching as the route I wanted to pursue. I started with a Classroom Assistant course and progressed onto HNC Childcare. However, I soon figured out that this wasn’t the course for me and decided to change direction.
After that, I didn’t know what to do. I became the carer for my grandmother for two years, followed by a period of working for William Hill. After a bad day at work I knew this wasn’t what I wanted to do and decided to find a new career path.
Accessing a STEM career
By this point I felt I had been out of education for quite a long time and wanted to take my time getting back into it. I didn’t have the same confidence in myself about studying and needed time to get back into the student mind set and lifestyle. I thought about my interests in technical subjects and decided to take an Access to STEM course at Ayrshire College.
I knew what to expect at college because I had already been in that environment. However, this time was so much better as I felt I was pursuing the right option for me. I had a fantastic class which made going to college a great experience. My class was evenly split with four boys and four girls who were all as interested in the subjects as me, which meant the atmosphere was great in the classroom.
On the Access to STEM course I studied Science, Maths, Chemistry, Physics and English most of which I hadn’t really studied much of before. I would have really enjoyed some work experience and guest speakers during the course, which is now something I am very passionate about making sure others experience. Indeed it is one of the reasons I decided to apply to be the Interconnect Student Champion.
The new me!
So far from my time at College I have increased my confidence, made new friends, narrowed down what I want to do as a career path and eased myself into the student lifestyle. This year I will be studying HNC Mechanical Engineering at and have deferred entry for next year for the University of Glasgow to study Product Design.
We are the champions
I applied to become an Interconnect Scotland Student Champion after attending the launch night of Ayrshire Connects, the College’s new network for female STEM and construction students. After completing an application form, I was invited to an interview over Skype. I was asked to discuss all the things I would do to get the word out about joining Ayrshire Connects and what kind of events I would like to organise to raise awareness of STEM careers for women.
I am very excited to start my new role as Interconnect Student Champion along with my studies this year. I have a huge amount of passion for STEM and want to make a difference for women in STEM. There is, even in 2016, a very low percentage of women who take STEM subjects at school, college and university or work in STEM industries. It can feel very isolating studying technical subjects at school or college with mostly male students. It’s not necessarily the number of men and women in your class, it’s the knowledge that the industry as a whole is male dominated. I want to be able to bring women together to reduce the feeling of being alone in a course or workplace. I want to get them talking about what we can do to make things better for working in these industries and how we can go about getting more women into STEM.
My first gig
I am looking forward to attending the Scottish Funding Council Gender Action Plan conference in August, where I will have the opportunity to hear from the Scottish Government’s Minister for Employability and Training, James Hepburn MSP. I am sharing the platform with our Vice Principal Jackie Galbraith who is speaking about the College’s approach to taking gender out of the equation. It will also be great to hear from City of Glasgow College about their women-only HNC Mechanical Engineering course they delivered last year to find out how effective this has been.
I’m also really excited about promoting Ayrshire Connects to new students at the Freshers’ Fairs on the College’s three campuses in September.
An exciting future
My future plans are expanding everyday now that I feel I have found what I’m good at and what I want to do with my life. One of the maths lecturers at Ayrshire College, Alan Carpenter, really inspired me to go out and get what I want in my career. He took the time to listen to me and get to know my learning style. It’s amazing how easy and fun maths can be when you get to play games and have the maths related to everyday life. I think in the future I would like to be an Engineering Lecturer and inspire others as much as Alan has done for his students. I want to make a difference!
Want to know more?
Interconnect Scotland: http://www.equatescotland.org.uk/interconnect/interconnect-student-network
Ayrshire Connects: http://www1.ayrshire.ac.uk/students/ayrshire-connects/