Flying the flag for STEM 

October 3, 2018

A female mechanic who left her call centre job to work in engineering is urging more girls and women to help STEM industries tackle skills shortages

Katy Malia is a woman on a mission. A mechanics and automotive teacher at Gateshead College, she’s passionate about encouraging females of all ages to consider a career in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) industries.

Her view is that if more women entered these traditionally male-dominated sectors, it would give companies an influx of new skills and help them resolve crippling skills shortages that are hindering economic growth.

Katy is living proof that STEM offers an exciting career path, having ditched life as a call centre worker to become a fully qualified mechanic.

She says: “I started a mechanics course when I was 27 so I could learn how to fix my car instead of taking it to a local garage. I’d never really thought about becoming a mechanic previously; it wasn’t something that girls at school were encouraged to pursue. Then I thought, ‘just because I’m a woman, why should this be a barrier to working in the industry?’”

After completing the course, Katy worked in a garage with the ambition of running her own business. Her career, however, took an unexpected turn when she was asked to become a teacher at Gateshead College.

Since then, Katy’s career has been on an upward trajectory. As well as helping students gain nationally-recognised qualifications, she’s been inspiring them – and females in particular – to learn more about the exciting range of STEM careers on offer.

Katy has been delivering workshops for schoolchildren all over the region to ignite their interest in STEM at an early age. One workshop saw pupils from Rowlands Gill Primary School design and create their own racing car powered by clean energy. This got them thinking about alternative fuel sources and ways of reducing their carbon footprint.

In a separate initiative, Corpus Christi and Brighton Avenue pupils learnt how kinetic energy helped protect drivers in a car crash situation.

Katy says: “If the manufacturing and engineering industries are to successfully tackle skills shortages, we need to get more children interested in STEM.

“Leaving it until they are 16 or 17 is too late; we need to show children at primary school how interesting and useful STEM is,” Katy adds.

Katy is also the driving force behind Gateshead College’s successful Girls Do campaign, which is designed to encourage more girls into STEM industries. She was also instrumental in the two-day GirlsTech event, hosted last year at Gateshead College, which brought professionals from the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Slovenia to the region to share ideas on how to combat the low female uptake of STEM subjects.

Katy says: “I’m incredibly grateful to Gateshead College for giving me the chance to embark on a teaching career in a line of work that I love. The staff there have invested so much time and effort in furthering my personal and professional development, which has enabled me to inspire dozens of children to explore STEM and consider a career in these industries.

“It’s well known that employers need more young people coming through the ranks to improve their skills base. Hopefully I can help them achieve this goal by continuing to work with schools, parents and teachers to fight STEM-related stigmas and make people aware of the fantastic range of careers on offer.”

Gateshead College

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