Helping to encourage more women into the engineering profession is a passion for McMenon Engineering Services’ Shiby Bernard.
On International Women in Engineering Day (June 23), as Chief Operations Officer for McMenon, Shiby is hoping that she can inspire the next generation of engineers to step forward in West Cumbria.
Shiby is keen to see more women believe in themselves and pursue their dreams and step into what may have once been a man’s world – but this is something Shiby – and McMenon – are keen to change the perception of.
McMenon held their first ever Girls in Engineering Day this year, hosting students from several local secondary schools in a bid to inspire more females into the profession – something that will now be an annual event due to its success.
And she sees their collaboration with local schools and colleges as key to moving forward and is herself a member of the Energy Coast UTC Trust Board.
Previously Shiby had said: “I would like to see effective engineering work placement opportunities for school students that give them an experience of actually creating something or solving a technical problem.”
She acted on that, creating a programme of meaningful work experience at McMenon, with a dedicated staff member allocated to mentor the school students for the duration of their placement.
Students get to have some practical experience and also spend time in all the varying departments at McMenon to get a thorough grounding of the business.
And the company has taken part in a range of Inspira-led events in schools such as World of Work days and mock interviews in addition to working with the local colleges to encourage apprentices.
“I hope when those girls and women see females in leadership positions and in engineering roles, that helps them to believe in themselves,” she said.
“If we can play even a small part in encouraging them to step up into engineering by providing these events and interaction then that will be fantastic.”
The past couple of years have not been easy on anyone – as McMenon has had to battle both the effects of the Covid pandemic and the obstacles of Brexit.
But Shiby, a founding partner and board member of McMenon, is proud of how the company has continued to stride forward, despite the issues facing them. And she has played no small part herself, which makes her an even more impressive role model for the next generation.
“McMenon remained open through the pandemic, not only as a safe working environment but also one that protected the livelihood of its employees,” said Shiby.
“Our focus was on ensuring business continuity with safe operations as per government guidelines. We acted ahead of the curve, planning and implementing appropriate measures even before any government guidelines were published.
“There were no redundancies and, we ensured the majority of staff continued working with full remuneration with only a small minority furloughed owing to absolute business necessity.”
During the period Shiby also wanted to focus on employee mental well-being and improve their work-life balance and helped to spearhead the trial and eventual implementation of a nine-day working fortnight for employees.
She was a key part of the McMenon team who developed a joint venture with fellow SME, TIS Cumbria to form the North West Energy Coast Alliance, which was accepted onto the PPP framework at Sellafield.
NWEC was named alongside a handful of other firms to deliver Fabricated and Manufactured Equipment packages for the projects, a framework agreement for an initial 3 years, worth up to £20m – a major step forward for McMenon’s diversification plans.
She is certainly an inspiration to those around her and if she had one message to those hoping to follow in her footsteps and carve out a career in business and engineering?
“Have the confidence to pursue your dreams and carve out the career you choose. There are so many options open to you, just believe in yourself and stride forward.”
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