Female high school students interested in careers in science, technology, engineering or maths from across the Latrobe Valley were treated to tours of some major local STEM employers as part of the STEM Sisters program on Thursday.
STEM Sisters is an extra-curricular program hosted by Baw Baw Latrobe Local Learning and Employment Network which encourages female secondary school students to explore non-traditional careers. About 16 students from the Latrobe Valley visited Gippsland Water's waste water treatment plant, AGL's Loy Yang power station and Aussie Broadband in Morwell.
AGL civil engineer Sally Neenan said it was important to show female students at high school "how fantastic STEM careers are".
"It is really important because Australia is really lagging behind in numbers of people involved in science and technology, so we really need to get people at a school age and show them how fantastic it is and try and boost those levels up," she said.
"They are missing out on amazing careers and also our industry is missing out on so much potential."
Ms Neenan said the students were given a tour of the plant and heard from some prominent women in leadership roles at Loy Yang, after which students participated in a speed dating-style exercise where they were given the opportunity to speak to a wide range of females employed in STEM roles at AGL.
"They are asking a lot of questions about how things work," she said.
"They can also see first hand all the different careers and where all the things they are studying can lead them.
"It can be a bit dry in the classroom and we are saying 'stick with it because the future is great'.
Stephanie Lake, who was AGL Loy Yang's first female apprentice in 20 years when she was hired, said female leaders in STEM careers were important.
"To get female leaders you need female apprentices in these sorts of trades," she said.
"A lot of young girls don't know these careers exist and if you can't see it, you can't be it, so we are getting more exposure to what women can do and we can be managers and we can be leaders.
"It drives these young women to chase dreams that they probably never thought possible and didn't know existed before."
For more information about the STEM Sisters program, visit bawbawlatrobellen.com.au.