IN an industry dominated by men today, these young women are strapping themselves into the driving seat to become the engineers of tomorrow.

As part of a 'Girls Go Technical' programme at Oxford's Mini Plant, BMW bosses are stepping up a gear to encourage more young girls and women to take up careers in the field.

As part of the company's attempts to steer the next generation of Mini builders in the right direction, 29 'girls' aged between 15 and 24 took part in a week's work experience across BMW's plants in Oxford, Swindon and Hams Hall, in Warwickshire.

Helen Evans, an engineer technician apprentice, spent last week inspiring the girls to get into the industry.

The 24-year-old from Headington said she was passionate about getting more young women to into engineering and getting schools and colleges to phase out the conventional view of engineering.

The third year apprentice, who did a u-turn into engineering having studied politics at Oxford Brookes University, added: "The week gives an opportunity for the girls to see what opportunities are out there in the engineering field.

"Unfortunately school girls do not realise it's a viable option for them so this shows they can do it.

"It's also about finding out what they want to do."

As well as being an apprentice, Miss Evans is studying for a BSc in Mechanical Engineering.

The group of girls from colleges and schools were taken on factory tours and learned about the manufacturing processes at each plant before experiencing the day-to-day challenges encountered by engineers and technical apprentices.

Practical sessions were held in the Minicademy as well as workshops to perfect interview and job application skills. Most of the students were from nearby counties or Oxfordshire, but one girl had travelled from as far as Holland to take part in the week's programme.

It is hoped at the end of the programme some will apply to the BMW apprentice scheme. Currently in the UK only around eight to 10 per cent of women work in engineering or manufacturing.

Emily Thompson, 15, from Didcot said: "It's a good opportunity to see what apprenticeship schemes the company has to offer - I had not thought about it much.

"I really like doing the testing in the climate chamber, I found that really interesting."

Simon Farrall, head of apprentice and associate training for BMW, said: “Investment in the next generation of talent is a key part of our development strategy."