Girls in the mix

1st July 2005 at 01:00
One of Lincoln's biggest employers is winning a battle to improve the image of engineering among young people. Siemens Industrial Turbomachinery Ltd has been so successful with its education links that last year it saw a 31 per cent increase in the number of applications from school-leavers for advanced apprenticeships.

Lincoln has a great tradition of manufacturing and engineering. The firm, formerly Alstom Power until it was taken over by the multinational Siemens two years ago, is a well-established big employer. It has 2,300 staff on its books engaged in manufacturing gas turbines.

But like other firms in the engineering sector it has found a shortage of qualified people. "It's difficult to encourage young people to consider engineering as a career option," says Angela Borman, the company's collaborative projects officer.

"Traditionally it's had an image of being dirty, dark, smelly, and noisy - all the very traditional images of engineering. But our business isn't like that at all.

"So by opening the doors to young people and giving them an opportunity to come inside, it's actually enabling them to see what it's really like and not base it on a myth of 30 years ago."

The company has 37 "ambassadors" who work with young people in local schools to promote science, engineering, technology and maths.

One of its initiatives - the Females into Industry Challenge, designed to encourage more girls to take engineering - brings the same group of girls throughout Years 8, 9 and 10 into the company to work on projects.

The firm is also working with Lincoln primary schools to instil an interest in science and engineering in younger pupils.

Siemens says the approach is working. Half the girls taking the Females into Industry Challenge apply for work experience with the company. Nearly one in five of Year 10s who get it, then want to join the company.

There are great benefits for schools such as City of Lincoln community college, which Siemens sponsored in its successful bid for specialist status as an engineering college. The school offers a GCSE and A-level in engineering. Ian Jones, the headteacher, says increasing numbers of students are taking the qualifications.

He is in no doubt as to the benefits of the partnership with Siemens. The company has been able to buy equipment for the school at half the normal cost, and staff make their expertise readily available.

"It's being able to pick up the phone and talk to people who genuinely want to support the school in what it's doing," he says. "Members of staff from Siemens come in and help with projects, they take children into the company and they support our staff.

"We also have a governor who's a Siemens engineer. So we have been absorbed by them and it's a good place to be."

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