Women in Engineering

Engineering is at the very heart of what we do at the RNLI. That’s why it’s crucial we inspire the next generation to consider careers within engineering. 

A photograph of girls from St Michael’s School at 2019’s Women in Engineering Event at RNLI


RNLI Women in Engineering Event

To help inspire and motivate the next generation of women in engineering and to express the RNLI’s commitment we hold a yearly event for local school girls, aged 11-13 years to celebrate International Women in Engineering day. International Women in Engineering Day is on 23 June every year and celebrates the achievements of women in engineering, and encourages more young women and girls to consider engineering careers. 

2021 is the 6th year RNLI have run a Women in Engineering event, and are aiming to reach more young women than before. The event is an adaption of the physical event which invited pupils from local schools to meet RNLI people who work in engineering, and get involved in various challenges and activities – from a hands-on demonstration of impact testing on lifeboat materials, to learning about 3D printing, and building a bridge using a combination of lollipop sticks and clothes pegs. This year looks a little different, but we hope you will stay inspired!

RNLI Women in Engineering 2021

On 23 June, we're inviting schools, students and young people to join the virtual event and take part in the activities.

This year’s event includes action-packed activities inspired by this year’s International Women in Engineering Day theme, #EngineeringHeroes. We have brought our event online and have produced a variety of activities for students to jump into. These activities are designed to broaden the students’ understanding of what a career in engineering could mean for them. They cover everything from practical careers, such as the building of lifeboats, to design based careers and IT engineering and technology. 

Take a moment to watch this opening video of, RNLI staff member, Andrew Tate as introduces the event.


Meet Dee Caffari

Get to know our special guest, Dee Caffari. Dee has sailed around the world six times and is the first woman to have sailed single-handed and non-stop around the world in both directions. Dee is part of the RNLI Operations Committee and Chair of the RNLI Sustainability Special Interest Group.

Find out more about Dee Caffari

The objective of this activity is to suspend an object (egg) using a shoelace for 30 seconds. Are you up to the challenge?

Your task is to help design the slipway from the station to the water, by looking at the forces acting on the boat and then calculating the best angle for the design so that the lifeboat enters the water at the right speed.

Remember that your crew are depending on you.

This session will introduce you to the international drowning problem and how design and engineering could be used to help. You'll be able to calculate, test and create concepts for a buoyancy device using plastic bottles. 

Want to give it a go? 

The RNLI uses very high specification technical clothing made by the clever clothing engineers and specialists at Helly Hansen. This clothing is designed to keep our Lifeboat Crews dry and warm when they are “out on a shout” and to protect our Lifeguards when they are helping people to stay safe on the beach and in the sea.

This challenge will give you the opportunity to learn more about it and hopefully come up with your own ideas on how to reduce any negative environmental impacts in future. You can also complete our practical challenge by upcycling an old t-shirt into something amazing, unique and new!

As technology advances and our world changes, it is important that the RNLI continue to innovate and build on the latest advances in science, technology and engineering.

The world’s first unsinkable lifeboat was designed in 1785 by Lionel Lukin, using the River Thames in England to test his various experiments. The simple boat was made with materials such as wood, cork and copper plates, a basic shell that would carry up to 20 people. Fast forward over 200 years and you don’t need to be on a super yacht to enjoy the high-tech advantages on today's marine vessels. RNLI lifeboats now feature chart plotters, autopilot and even self-righting technology in the case of capsizing!

Imagine another 20, 30 or even 50 years in the future, what new technology could lifeboats have onboard to help save even more lives at sea?

Each year Soroptimist International (SI) Bournemouth challenge teams of girls in years 8 and 9 at local schools, to use STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Maths) knowledge and research to create a sustainable solution to help improve the lives people in the poorest parts of our world. These solutions can be anything to address any situation. 

The next SI STEAM Challenge starts in October 2021. Girls have until the end of February 2022 to submit their completed project report. A team of judges from local STEAM based industries will judge the heats and then the finals, including the physical model/prototype and a short presentation from the team, which will take place at Bournemouth University during March 2022. 

For further information and support on taking part in 2021/22 STEAM Challenge, please contact SI Bournemouth via email at: stemsibournemouth@gmail.com.

Take a look at the PDF for some example of what other students have ideated: 

The RNLI has come to the rescue once again! If you’re a teacher, parent or guardian looking for ways to educate, entertain and engage your children, play our Water Safety video – perfect for primary school-aged children.

Your children can learn from these videos so that when they next visit beaches or open water, they'll be ready and stay safe.

For more water safety activities for primary and secondary children, check out our Youth Education Resources.

Lifeboat tours

Take a virtual tour round some of our lifeboats!


Here at the home of RNLI Training we deliver a wide variety of courses, from Seamanship to advanced command courses for volunteer crews across the UK and ROI. The video shows some of the activities the trainers train the crews here at the college. You'll see that the crew are given the best possible training to face the worse of conditions, operating our vessels in high-risk areas, all while keeping a calm and cool atmosphere while reassuring the casualties that everything is ok.

Training isn't how it used to be thanks to developments in technology. Crews spend a minimum of 2 days in our purpose-built survival tank, experiencing abandoning to a life raft and an ILB (Inshore Lifeboat) capsize, so if things do go wrong, we have prepared them to the best of their ability. It's like a simulator for lifeboats! 

Navigation and command courses are also run here in Poole. Crews are put through their paces, learning to navigate our lifeboats in high stress scenarios, while on the flipside our Helms, Coxswains and Commanders are given a week of intense training in Bridge Team Management. Our Helms, Coxswains and Commanders are trained to manage the crew, vessel and her equipment, maintaining an overall situational awareness while taking overall responsibility for the safety of the vessel and its crew. 

The RNLI college has been open since 2003 and in that time, have trained thousands upon thousands of crews, to be able to return home, after saving lives at sea.

What next?

The RNLI has a wide range of careers within engineering. From designing, building and maintaining of our lifeboats and lifeboat stations, to supporting roles within finance, HR, planning and administration, and lots more. To get your engineering career started with us we have several different pathways for you to choose from:

Work experience

This programme is for 14 to 18 year olds and typically involves a 1 week unpaid placement within one of our engineering teams. You will have the opportunity to get hands-on experience and learn more from our experienced and skilled employees.

The RNLI work experience programme has been paused for the academic year 2020/21 but is likely to restart in 2021/22. For any work experience queries please contact us at workexperience@rnli.org.uk.


As an RNLI apprentice you will get to earn a salary, gain recognised qualifications and acquire valuable workplace skills in your chosen career. Find our more about RNLI apprenticeships.

University placements

If you decide to go to university and you need to find an employer for your industry placement, then the RNLI might be able to support you with this. It's a great way to get a years experience within the industry ahead of graduating. 

Helpful links

  • The RNLI is partnered with the International Maritime Rescue Federation (IMRF) to support their Women in SAR initiative. Women are hugely under-represented in the maritime sector and the IMRF is working to raise the profile and increase the representation of women in search and rescue (SAR). The IMRF supports the RNLI's work for Women in Engineering and have done a case study on the RNLI - read the case study!
  • Need some inspiration to help you decide which engineering career could be right for you? Then visit Tomorrow’s Engineers
  • LikeToBe helps students to explore careers, engage with potential employers and build their employability skills.
  • Engineering Development Trust offer young people active learning experiences in STE(A)M related careers.
  • STEM Secondary Science activities to try in the classroom.
  • Get stuck in at home with some more STEM Family Activities.
  • Search for workshops, challenges, shows and more on the STEM Directory.
  • PSHE KS3/4 resource for parents of young women - Your Daughter's Future


Please take a moment to complete this 2 minute survey to let us know if you found these resource useful! 


Activities referred to in the Women in Engineering series can be physically challenging and carry risks of personal injury. Anyone under 18 years old carrying out any of the activities discussed here should be accompanied by an adult at all times.  

To help keep you safe: 

  • You should be accompanied by an adult.  
  • You should act responsibly and sensibly at all times.
  • You should not participate if you have injuries, are pregnant or under the influence of alcohol or non-prescription drugs. 
  • You should follow any safety warnings or instructions displayed within the videos as well as those given to you by a teacher if you are doing it as part of the school activity.

RNLI cannot accept any liability for the activities as it has no control over them and as such, participation in these activities is entirely at your risk.