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Scholarships to boost number of women entering resources industry

A successful program run by Challenger Institute of Technology to bolster the number of women entering the resources industry has been expanded to embrace diploma and advanced diploma scholarships.

[Pictured alongside: Women in Engineering participant Jessica Duchesne, 18, of Rockingham has progressed to the diploma course.]

The Women in Engineering program is delivered in partnership with industry sponsor Chevron Australia. The students receive scholarships that enable them to conduct their studies at Challenger Institute's oil and gas simulated plant facility at the Australian Centre for Energy and Process Training (ACEPT).

A third batch of students is now preparing to embark upon the scholarship program designed to encourage more women to enter careers in the largely male-dominated field of engineering.

The program began in 2010 as a Certificate III in Engineering (Technical) course providing foundation skills for employment in construction industries associated with Western Australia’s expanding resources industry.

As the class of 2012 begins its engineering journey, a significant majority of the original students have embraced the course’s pathway to higher-level engineering qualifications, progressing to diploma and advanced level diploma studies at Challenger.

A key focus of the course is to provide the women with an insight into engineering from a female perspective and to address barriers that might discourage women from entering an engineering career.

Course participants enjoy the assistance of industry mentors, women who have forged successful engineering careers with global energy company Chevron. In a unique initiative, the mentors serve as role models, contributing to lectures and a dedicated online forum in which students can raise questions.

“We are thrilled to be able to offer additional support and guidance to the women by providing some of our female engineers to mentor and share their experiences and advice with those in the program,” Chevron Australia general manager human resources Kaye Butler said.

“The value a mentor provides to a mentee and to the wider organisation and community is widely acknowledged at Chevron. That is why we have a mentoring program available to all Chevron employees, and why we are very proud of our partnership with Challenger Institute.”

The entry-level six month Certificate III in Engineering (Technical) has been specifically designed to provide female candidates with skills and employment prospects through a supportive learning program that includes visits to Chevron Australia’s engineering and design offices.

“To have had almost 50 women take part in this program is great progress and it is wonderful to see women succeeding in such important industry roles,” Challenger CEO Liz Harris said.

“These women are now looking at a very positive future in the resources industry and are forging a path for women in the industry.”

The course participants come from a diverse range of ages and backgrounds, from 18 year-old school leavers to mature-age mothers.

Their academic experiences are also disparate, encompassing Asian students seeking to enhance their overseas degree qualifications, working and home-based mothers to students who had previously studied sports science, music and other areas far-removed from the world of engineering and resources.

“I was making progress in an Advanced Diploma in Contemporary Music when my aunty alerted me to the course being offered at Challenger. I’d entertained the idea of studying engineering at high school but it had seemed out of reach,” explained Jessica Duchesne, who has now progressed to the diploma course.

“But the fact this is supported by a major employer such as Chevron and offers such fantastic employment possibilities, I decided to take up the challenge. Eventually I would like to enhance my qualifications here by finishing an engineering degree.”

[Nicole Vanpraag is Communications Coordinator, Challenger Institute of Technology.]

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