Our Islands, Our Future

Maui girls in grades 7-8, accompanied by teachers, discovered the exciting and lucrative field of engineering during Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day (IGED) on Thursday, February 25th, at Maui Research and Technology Park. In observance of National Engineers Week, Maui Economic Development Board’s Women in Technology (WIT) program hosts the popular event to expose girls to the male-dominated field of engineering and encourage them to become engineers themselves. For the past 16 years, WIT has teamed up with the County of Maui, Maui Electric and local industrial firms to provide a day of hands-on activities and worksite visits. Along with raising awareness of the contribution engineers make to the community, IGED also introduces students to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

According to WIT Project Manager Mapu Quitazol, women still represent less than 5% of engineers in Hawaii and studies predict there will be a further shortage of engineers in the next two decades. “Together, we can challenge those daunting statistics,” Quitazol said. “The sooner we get girls engaged in the field, the faster they can begin learning the skills to compete for these high-paying, in-demand jobs. In fact, Quitazol noted, “engineering is the number one job that parents should be encouraging their girls to pursue.”

Fiona van AmmersSenior Project Engineer Fiona van Ammers from SSFM International, Inc., a Hawaii-based professional engineering business, advocates for participation in the WIT Program. “It is important to develop future leaders through community-based programs designed to address planning for Maui’s future,” she said. “IGED engages young women in meaningful events that add to their skill set and inspire them to choose a STEM career.” Fiona explains to students that civil engineering is about creating designs that improve and protect the environment and human lives. This is demonstrated by explanation of what work was required to complete the Maui Memorial Medical Center Helipad, for which Fiona was the civil engineer and project manager. For the past decade, WIT has been at the forefront of providing cutting-edge STEM programs across the islands to meet 21st century workforce demands.

WIT’s IGED program provides engineers and companies with a chance to make a difference in our environment, in our community and in our lives. I am thrilled to be a part of this event for young girls which helps develop future Maui leaders.

Fiona van Ammers, Senior Project Engineer, SSFM International, Inc.