Female chief blazes a trail

29th September 2006 at 01:00
Former travel courier Pam Tanner boasts she is handy with a screwdriver when putting together flat-pack furniture. But she is ready to admit that is as far as her DIY skills go.

Her appointment as director of technology and innovation, with responsibility for the engineering and construction departments at Neath Port Talbot college, has raised eyebrows, says the divorced mum-of-two.

However, she reckons her strengths, and reaching the top in a male-dominated field, come from thinking on her feet and getting it right.

She is now planning a strategy to get more girls into engineering and construction at the college. And her biggest asset, she believes, is her experience in the travel industry.

Aged 19, Mrs Tanner found she was responsible for coach-loads of tourists abroad.

She reflects: "There was nobody to turn to and you had to think on your feet. It was great training."

Later she put these skills to good use as a travel organiser for the Welsh Rugby Union's international tours.

Her move to further education came about 20 years ago with a lecturer's post teaching business management to leisure and tourism students. She was also responsible for the commercial management of engineering programmes.

Mrs Tanner says her career path shows that choices made at 16 or 18 are not cast in stone, or that women cannot break into the still male-dominated world of engineering.

Part of her job now is to get both those messages out.

However, inspection body Estyn recently reported that only 3 per cent of the total enrolments for construction at FE colleges inspected during 20045 were female, with 7 per cent in engineering. This is true at Neath Port Talbot college with few female instructors in those areas.

Mrs Tanner, 47, said: "I haven't worked on targets yet but it's one of the things I will be doing. I want to see what we can do to attract more females as instructors and students."

The newly-appointed director of T I added: "It won't happen overnight but, with the right messages going out, I think we can achieve it."

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