EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

Siemens Industrial Turbomachinery, UK: Increasing the labour market participation of underrepresented groups – women

About

Country: 
United Kingdom
Organisation Size: 
Large
Sectors: 
ElectricalEnergyMetal and machinery
Category: 
increasing labour market participation of underrepresented groups

Siemens Industrial Turbomachinery, part of Siemens AG, has developed partnerships with three schools in Lincoln. Along with work experience, the company has started a number of initiatives to help the schools and support their efforts to boost interest in engineering and manufacturing, particularly among girls and young women. To date the result has been positive. Schoolgirls have become involved in the company’s ‘Females into Industry Challenge’, have got valuable work experience and have applied for the apprenticeship programme.

Organisational background

Siemens Industrial Turbomachinery (SIT) is part of the Siemens Power Generation division of Siemens AG, the German multi-national electronics and engineering company. SIT manufactures gas turbines for the oil and gas and industrial power generation industries and provides a range of related engineering, project management, research and development and lifetime support services.

The company is one of the largest employers in Lincoln in the East of England with 2,300 workers and annual sales of around £300 million. The SIT factory has been in operation for over 50 years but only became part of the Siemens group in 2003. It was previously owned by the French Alstom group and before that by the UK engineering multi-national GEC.

The two recognised trade unions are the technical and professional union Amicus (with around 1,200 members) and the GMB general workers’ union (100 members). Over the last 15 years there has been a marked improvement in industrial relations at the company with both sides now regarding their relationship as a partnership, even if there is no formal ‘partnership agreement’ as such.

The government, using initiatives and job choices for young people who quit school, particularly young women, is trying to increase employer input into learning and training. The initiatives consist of regional Learning and Skills Councils and Sector Skills Agreements. Schools are encouraged to ensure that girls are given more opportunities to work in non-traditional occupations.

Description of the initiative

Each year SIT aims to recruit 20 or more advanced apprentices to work within various engineering roles. In 2001, it became aware that the number of applicants was declining. In addition, the number of applicants with the relevant levels of qualification was decreasing and the business was also unable to attract females into what had traditionally been a male role.

As one of the largest private employers in Lincolnshire, SIT also acknowledged that it had a responsibility to take a strategic approach to employee involvement in the business and community in order to make a positive and productive impact on society. The company also faces a particular recruitment challenge as a large manufacturing employer in a predominantly rural area with a relatively low level of manufacturing output and employment.

The company realised it had to take a number of initiatives to address these challenges.

At that time, SIT was owned by the French multinational Alstom. The 2003 takeover by Siemens, however, gave further impetus to the company’s plans. Since 2005, Siemens has been developing its global education initiative into its ‘Generation 21’ scheme, which has community involvement and support as a central element. Generation 21 encourages Siemens subsidiaries to increase their involvement with local schools by running competitions, providing teaching materials and establishing partnerships with the schools.

SIT operates its education programme within Lincolnshire, mainly in the City of Lincoln, in particular areas recognised by government and local organisations as having social deprivation and unemployment issues. The company realises the necessity of reducing the serious effect that unemployment can have on the motivation of young people in terms of low aspirations and academic achievement.

SIT has supported three schools in the Lincoln area, The City of Lincoln Community College, Joseph Ruston Technology College and St Peter and St Paul’s Catholic Schools, to develop their Specialist Schools status. The initiatives have involved financial support with SIT being the main sponsor for two of the schools. All the staff from these schools have visited the main manufacturing facility in Lincoln to familiarise themselves with the business and its products.

Currently, SIT has 38 employees who act as ‘Science and Engineering Ambassadors’ (SEAs), with a further 12 employees on the waiting list to become SEAs. Two female employees are about to become the first women SEAs. The role of an ambassador is to work with pupils from primary to secondary schools, encouraging them to explore how much science, engineering, technology and mathematics has to offer, and to consider engineering as a career.

The company has an extensive work experience programme within Lincolnshire and the surrounding area. On average, 450 days of work experience are completed within the business in areas related to engineering and administration. Local schools acknowledge the impact that this work experience has on their pupils. The head teacher of the City of Lincoln Community College is convinced that it can make a tangible difference to examination grades for many students. In addition, it has helped the school increase the number of pupils achieving A to C grades at GCSE from 23% to 49% between 2002 and 2005.

SIT now runs a ‘Females into Industry Challenge’ in collaboration with Lincoln College. This gives students an opportunity to experience the industry first hand by working on a specific engineering challenge.

In 2003, eight students from schools within Lincolnshire had the opportunity to experience industry first hand by working on a challenge to design and construct a desk in two days. Computer-aided design and manufacturing equipment were used, as well as traditional hand skills.

Fifty percent of the girls returned in 2004 to take part in a one-day event to design and make a clock, again using engineering skills. Forty-five percent of the 2003 group returned to the business to undertake work experience in 2005 and 22% have applied for positions in the Company Advanced Apprenticeship programme. There were no applications for apprenticeships from women in 2005 but five applied in 2006 and two were offered and accepted places on the scheme.

Analysis

SIT’s educational initiatives have been successful in the last two years as SIT has seen applications from local schools for its advanced apprenticeship programme increase by 60%, while female applications for the programme have also risen.

SIT’s policy has clearly benefited from the fact that the local initiative fits extremely well with the corporate approach to education of the parent group. An important contributing factor has been the way that SIT employees are involved in the project. The employees are going into local schools as ‘ambassadors,’ lecturing on the benefits not just of working for Siemens but of gaining wide engineering and manufacturing-related qualifications.

This success has been acknowledged more widely, with SIT seen to be setting an example for industry. The company now has a number of awards, including the 2006 Institution of Mechanical Engineers award for the best partnership between business and education and the 2006 Merrill Lynch ‘Investing in Young People’ award. In addition, SIT has won three regional awards, with two from the Business in the Community charity in 2004 and 2005 for contribution to education in the local community, and one in 2006 from the regional Learning and Skills Council which recognised SIT as an East Midlands Champion for its work experience initiatives.

The leading role the company can play has also been recognised by the fact that in 2005 it started to work with the national Specialist Schools and Academies Trust. This cooperation followed a visit to the City of Lincoln Community College by the Trust’s national co-ordinator. This has meant that Siemens local partnerships have been publicised to other engineering specialist schools in both the UK and Germany. It has also resulted in SIT moving from being a local business involved in education to being recognised at the national and international level as having a contribution to make to the education of young people.

Exemplary and contextual factors

SIT’s educational initiatives begin from primary school with the company sending its ‘ambassadors’ to local schools and by providing educational material. SIT builds on this initial relationship with more in-depth partnerships with secondary schools. This partnership relies on visits to schools and site visits and work experience at SIT to boost students’ interest in engineering and manufacturing. The recent awards indicate how the company is setting the pace in boosting the number of apprenticeships, particularly among young women.

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