Embracing Equity at SL Controls on International Women’s Day
SL Controls is proud to support this year’s International Women’s Day theme, Embrace Equity. It’s an especially important message to get across in engineering as the sector seeks to attract more women.
The International Women’s Day theme of Embrace Equity is about going beyond equality, where equality is the goal rather than the approach. After all, an equal approach doesn’t take into account an individual’s personal circumstances. That is achieved through equity, where resources, support, and opportunities are tailored to the individual.
Equity in Engineering
Shauna Ryan, People and Culture Director at SL Controls, said:
“The Embrace Equity message is very powerful and it’s one we should all be aware of. At SL Controls, we support equity both in theory and practice, as we work hard to treat everyone as an individual.
“Looking more broadly at the engineering sector as a whole, it is clear there is a problem. Even with the best management, recruitment, and HR practices, it remains incredibly difficult to recruit female engineers. The sector has known it for years, but the needle hasn’t really budged on the issue.
“It’s something we are acutely aware of here at SL Controls. For example, we proactively seek applications from females for the engineering vacancies we advertise. We do this using a variety of strategies, but we always receive more applications from men than women. We also know there are fewer women qualifying as engineers than men because fewer women are enrolling on engineering courses.”
What the Figures Tell Us
Official figures back up Shauna’s comments:
- In March 2022, Engineers Ireland reported figures from the Higher Education Authority that indicated 23 percent of engineering graduates were female.
- Across Europe, only 34 percent of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) graduates were female.
- In the UK, just 18 percent of engineering and technology students are female.
How to Get More Female Engineers
The question of how to get more women into engineering is one that industry, the education sector, and governments have grappled with for many years. To contribute to the discussion, we recently ran a poll on our LinkedIn page asking what can be done to get more girls and young women interested in engineering. We offered four options:
- Option 1 – Increased levels of Government-led and industry-supported formal and informal STEM education in primary schools.
- Option 2 – Increase the promotion of STEM careers in secondary schools, with a particular emphasis on female students.
- Option 3 – Employers adopting more flexible and equitable work patterns.
- Option 4 – Campaign to change gender perceptions of engineering, focusing mainly on parents, teachers, and career guidance counsellors.
Promoting engineering in secondary school was the most popular option, followed closely by formal and informal education in primary schools.
“The result of this poll is very interesting, and it confirms something we have believed in at SL Controls for a long time. That is the fact you need to introduce young people, including girls, to engineering at a young age. The aim should be to spark their curiosity and get them thinking that engineering is something they could consider.
“This is why we are involved in the STEAM initiative. We have done two so far, one in Sligo and one in Limerick, where two of our engineers go into a primary school class once a week for 10 weeks to do fun and engaging engineering-related activities.”
The school in Limerick where SL Controls engineers Oonagh Wynne and Gary Collopy delivered the STEAM engineering education programme was Scoil an Spioraid Naoimh in Roxborough. It was a 4th class, and its teacher is Ceiline O’Meara.
“From a big class of 32, with only nine girls, I was pleasantly surprised at how well the girls responded to engineering over the past 10 weeks. It has inspired the girls in my class to be creative, and it has given them confidence to choose engineering as a career in the future.
“It is hard to believe that women only represent 13% of engineers. Many girls, and in particular, in primary school don’t get access to engineering. However, we here in Scoil an Spioraid Naoimh were fortunate enough to get this opportunity and it was a huge success amongst the class, but particularly with the girls.
“Learning engineering from a young age can help to build skills in lots of other subjects, such as science and maths. Not only this, but engineering can help children to understand real world technologies and problems, thus allowing them to make connections with the wider- world.
“Over the past 10 weeks, the children in my class engaged in different projects and activities. These projects were hands on, fun, and encouraged the children to use their creativity and imagination. The children looked forward to their lesson each week and thoroughly enjoyed learning new skills.”
According to Shauna, it is important that more children, including young girls, get similar opportunities to the 4th class in Scoil an Spioraid Naoimh:
“The reaction you get from the children is amazing, so the more we can do things like this at all levels of industry, the education sector, and society as a whole, the better.”
Engineering in a Box Lessons for 4th Class Pupils at Scoil an Spioraid Naoimh, Limerick
Encouraging the next generation of employees and entrepreneurs to consider engineering is important to us at SL Controls, so we jumped at the opportunity to get involved with STEAM Education again. Last year, two of our engineers had a fantastic experience teaching children in a Sligo primary school about engineering topics and concepts.
This time it was the turn of SL Controls engineers Oonagh Wynne and Garry Collopy. They have been teaching a one-hour lesson once a week to 4th Class Pupils at Scoil an Spioraid Naoimh, Limerick. The programme, called Engineering in a Box, lasts 10 weeks and is designed to teach the children about the basic concepts of engineering in a fun way that sparks their enthusiasm and interest.
“One thing I remember from when I was in 4th class is we did this science exercise with our teacher that involved electrical circuits,” said Oonagh. “I remember doing that and it really stuck with me as something new. As I went further through education and into my career I can see how it really impacted me, by introducing me to magnets and electronics. When this opportunity with STEAM Education and SL Controls came up as an option, I thought it would be a great thing to do with the kids.
“I want to inspire them about engineering, and even though I don’t want to encourage one gender more than another, it would be great to get more girls interested in engineering and encourage them to study it.”
Range of Topics
There is a different topic and task in each week of the 10-week course, with the topic areas covering everything from infrastructure to water to energy to the environment.
Garry said: “To give you an example, one of the weeks involved building boats using various arts and crafts materials. The kids had to first make boats that could float in water, then they had to see how much weight their boat could take.
“All the kids in the class are very enthusiastic. Whenever we arrive at the class each week, they are always asking us what we are going to build, what we are going to do. They are a great bunch of kids, all helping each other, and all still interested week after week.”
Oonagh added: “It’s also amazing how much the kids already know. They are learning, but they also know so much, particularly about environmental issues and topics.
“Before we started the kids did a survey about what they want to be when they get older. There were mixed responses, but they included those you would expect like becoming a footballer or baker. I think we are opening their eyes about engineering, and they now know more about what engineers do.”
Garry says it has been a rewarding experience for himself and Oonagh too: “I have kids in 5th and 2nd class and I am learning things that I can pass onto them. It is very fulfilling. I’ve also had experience lecturing, but it is much more fun teaching the primary school class, especially when you see the enthusiasm, and when they ask what you have to do to become an engineer.”
Meet the SL Controls Team at Explore Engineering 2023 in Clare
The SL Controls team is looking forward to the annual engineering showcase, Explore Engineering. It takes place this year on Thursday 2 March and it’s back to its former home, Shannon Airport.
Explore Engineering is aimed at students, teachers, and parents with the goal of showcasing the career opportunities that exist in the engineering sector throughout the Mid-West of Ireland.
Going by previous years, it is set to be another fantastic event, with cutting-edge technologies on display from some of the most exciting engineering companies, organisations, and educational institutions in Ireland.
Frank Quinn, Business Development Associate at SL Controls, said: “Our footprint at SL Controls stretches across Ireland, so we get invited to a lot of careers events like this. Explore Engineering stands out, though, as there is always a buzz and loads of energy. So, we are looking forward to it.
“We are also passionate about the core messages of Explore Engineering. Those messages include the fact there are fantastic career opportunities in the engineering sector in the Mid-West region. We are also keen to communicate the fact that there are multiple pathways into engineering for young people to explore. Engineering is for everyone, so we hope to see you there.”
SL Controls Announces 100 New Highly Skilled Jobs in Ireland
SL Controls is proud to announce the creation of 100 new highly skilled jobs in Ireland, helping us achieve our growth objectives and our plans for further expansion in target markets around the world.
The new jobs will bring the SL Controls workforce to a total of 220. The roles will be based in Ireland, but many of them will be location independent to meet the needs of our growing list of clients across the globe.
Keith Moran, SL Controls CEO, said: “Our turnover at SL Controls increased by 43 percent over the past three years and our projections for the next three years see our rate of growth increasing even further. This growth is creating new, highly skilled jobs at SL Controls that we will need to fill between now and mid-2025.
“We are a specialist software company that delivers solutions for companies in the pharmaceutical and medical device sectors, but one of the great things about the people we plan to hire is that many of the skills we need can be transferred from other sectors. For example, we need software developers to join our team, so there are potential opportunities for people currently working in the technology sector.”
SL Controls is part of the global IT company, NNIT. NNIT has over 3,000 employees and offices in Europe, Asia, and North America.
Keith said: “Joining forces with NNIT has further enhanced our service offering to meet our customers’ global requirements for fully integrated solutions across the Operational Technology and Information Technology layers. This has led to an increase in both clients and the level of work across Ireland, the US, and Europe.
“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the SL Controls team who have enabled this strong growth and we look forward to welcoming new team members over the coming months.”
SL Controls Shortlisted for Innovator Excellence Award
We are delighted to have been selected as a finalist for the Innovator Excellence Award at the upcoming Sligo Chamber of Commerce Excellence Awards. We are one of three finalists for the award, which is sponsored by Atlantic Technological University.
Keith Moran, CEO at SL Controls, said: “The Innovator Excellence Award category this year is focused on new product innovations that facilitate circular economy processes and workflows. This is an area that is important to us at SL Controls as we develop solutions that transform manufacturing operations in highly regulated industries such as pharmaceuticals and medical devices.
“Being shortlisted as a finalist is an honour and we are looking forward to celebrating these really important awards that recognise the efforts of the fantastic business community that exists in Sligo.”
Meet the Team – Shane McLaughlin
Describe your job in 5 words
Trusted partner delivering technology transformation.
What is a cool thing you are working on right now?
Can’t tell you (client confidentiality and all)… but it’s cool.
The tech is cool too. A lot of tech that I’m currently working with the SL team wouldn’t have seen. I’m working a lot with NNIT (SL Controls’ parent company) at the moment, and I’m seeing the new stuff they are working on. New technology and new clients.
In the past, you knew everybody in the company, and you knew what everybody did. Now working in NNIT, I am always meeting new people as it is a much bigger business. I was over in Germany in the summer as well, meeting some of the folks there.
The alignment is good between the two business units – we do level two integration at SL Controls, and they do level three and level four. So, it’s all about how we can sync up, where are the synergies, how can we create more business, and all that is very interesting.
All that said, 70 percent of what I do is still with current clients, but I’m even looking at them in a different light now as we have different services that the NNIT team can bring.
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up and why?
A vet initially. I come from a farming background, and we had a B&B when I was growing up at home. So, it was all about customer service and farming.
I’ve also always had an interest in fixing things. That led me to my career. First, it was refrigeration on large boats and then onto maintaining technology with Hewlett Packard. I then went back to university to get an Honours degree as an engineer.
How and why did you get into business development?
I spent 15 years in engineering and engineering management, but I always had a high interest in commercial growth and forging partnerships, so it seemed like a natural progression for me in doing more of what I enjoy.
If you could swap jobs with someone for a day, who would it be?
Vladimir Putin… It would be a busy day with a fair few changes to turn things around from what we are all facing today.
What is the best thing about being on the SL Controls team?
The people – that’s the obvious one. I’ve also always been interested in what drives and motivates people and businesses.
What do you like about working in the life sciences sector?
At the end of the day, it is about health and happiness. You do get to see some of the end results where drugs or medical devices have improved people’s lives. This could be in clinical trials, and I have been to India where I got to see some of the medical devices that we were involved in being used in the field.
I was lucky enough to get that real-world experience. I’ve seen the products in the factories that we help to modernise. But when you see the end results, the patient outcomes, that’s a different game.
Staff Wear Christmas Jumpers to Raise Money for Rescue Service
SL Controls staff wore Christmas jumpers to work on Friday to raise money for Ballybunion Sea & Cliff Rescue.
Ballybunion Sea & Cliff Rescue was instrumental in the search for our friend and colleague Donal Kennedy who sadly passed away in September.
Members of the SL Controls team searched side-by-side with the Ballybunion Sea & Cliff Rescue team, so we got to see first-hand the fantastic, challenging, and essential work they do. We miss Donal and continue to mourn his loss, but we are also proud to remember and honour him as we raise money for this vital service.
To donate to Ballybunion Sea & Cliff Rescue, follow this link.
2022 Christmas Gatherings at SL Controls
The first in-person Christmas gatherings at SL Controls took place over the weekend as staff at our regional offices got together for a night out ahead of the seasonal break.
Over 70 people attended the get-togethers which took place in Sligo, Galway, Limerick, and Maynooth.
Shauna Ryan, Director of People and Culture from SL Controls said: “It was an interesting experience over the past couple of years going to Christmas parties virtually where you sit in your living room wearing a Santa hat, looking at a laptop screen. They were great at the time, and they certainly served their purpose, but it was fantastic that we could all get together again in person.
“Everybody works so hard throughout the year, so it is important that we enjoy some non-work experiences as a team.”
Mental Health First Aid Awareness Training Provided to SL Controls Team
Are you able to recognise the signs and symptoms of common mental health problems? Would you know how to engage in a conversation with a colleague, family member, or friend you are concerned about?
These were some of the topics covered in a recent Lunch & Learn session at SL Controls. Lunch & Learn is an initiative in the company where we provide short and highly focused information sessions to all staff on a wide range of topics.
The topic of this Lunch & Learn session was Mental Health Awareness. It was hosted by a specialist trainer from Mental Health First Aid. The session itself was very well attended and it was recorded for those who weren’t able to join.
Shauna Ryan, Director of People and Culture at SL Controls, said: “Mental health problems can arise in any setting, including in the workplace. At SL Controls, we have a Think Well at SL programme that promotes good mental health in the workplace, and one of our Sustainable Development Goals is to promote good health and wellbeing.
“The Mental Health Awareness Lunch & Learn session was such a valuable experience. I have talked to others who attended, and they are of the same opinion.
“A lot of discussion around mental health is about looking at yourself, something which is absolutely essential. We all need to look after our own mental health. But there are also times when we need help, and that is what this Lunch & Learn session was about – recognising when someone you know is showing symptoms of a mental health problem and what you can do to help.”
The Mental Health Awareness session aimed to enhance understanding of mental health, the stigma that still exists around mental health issues, and how stigma impacts help-seeking. It also provides information on recognising the symptoms and signs of mental health problems and triggers, as well as recognising the barriers to help-seeking.
Advice was provided on how to engage in conversations around mental health and identify the support that is available, both internally and externally.
Deirdre Loughlin, Quality & Marketing Executive, said: “Everyone in Ireland has been impacted by mental health problems in some way, whether it’s personally, through someone you know, or both. There is less of a stigma now about mental health issues, but it still exists, and that has to change.
“It is also great to have a better awareness of the triggers and signs of mental health issues to make us better equipped to help our colleagues, family, and friends.”