University of Sheffield is where women work


Female apprentices at University of Sheffield's AMRC

Rebecca Taylor says “If I was 16 years old and I was given a hundred choices for careers, I would choose here every time,” said a recent visitor to a powerful partnership between global manufacturers and the University of Sheffield that is creating the young engineers of the future.

The visitor - one of the many industrial and political figures to have made the pilgrimage to the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) Training Centre in the year since it opened its doors to its first cohort of 150 apprentices - was none other than Dr Hamid Mughal, the Director of Global Manufacturing at Rolls-Royce.

Dr Mughal told the National Summit for Apprentices and Higher Vocational Education, held at the AMRC, that: “You cannot ask for a better environment than this for tomorrow’s engineers to create the complex, customer-oriented values and solutions for industry.”

Praise indeed. The centre has not only set benchmark standards for the quality of its training, but is also opening up new pathways for young people to make the transition from school to higher education.

The success of the centre has led government ministers and officials to base  the new network on national colleges on the AMRC Training Centre model. “We are  different because we began by working with a consortium of industrialists to develop our curriculum, and everything we do here is employer led,” says Kerry Featherstone, Head of Operations at the AMRC Training Centre, and a former Early Careers and Future Capability Manager for BAE SYSTEMS.

From the hexagonal benches arranged in manufacturing cells and the use of lean working, engineering principles and production meetings through to oversight from an active Industry Board, the AMRC Training Centre has a work-ready culture at its heart.

If there is a gap to be filled, it is the lack of young women coming through the system - but even this is being addressed. A summer school for youngsters last year attracted record numbers of girls. “One of the groups was entirely young girls,” said Featherstone.

The task now is to translate that enthusiasm into female apprentices. “We are doing the outreach work, getting into schools and making teachers, parents and pupils aware of what modern, advanced engineering is really like,” she added.

Rebecca Taylor was a student at Thomas Rotherham College when she applied to become an engineering apprentice. The evaluators could see that Rebecca had talent and promise. What they didn’t know was that manufacturing is hard wired into her DNA.

“I’m not the first in my family. A while back we used to own one of the biggest companies in South Yorkshire, Newton Chambers. My great grandad was in charge of a team of aeroplane engineers in the Second World War and my grandad was a fitter, so it just skipped a generation and we’re back on.”

Her talent was also spotted by ATI in Sheffield who recruited her as a trainee engineer. She says: “They do work for Rolls-Royce engines and there’s also a site like this, which is nice and clean, where they manufacture pipes.”

Of her training at the AMRC centre she says: “Half the time we are programming, and then we run our work downstairs. I enjoy it here, it’s varied and you can carry on to get a degree if you want, but your eggs aren’t all in one basket; you can go down a number of routes.”

And Rebecca has advice for girls, to look beyond the muck and oil if they are interested in a career in engineering: “Girls at school go to engineering firms and just see the dirt, but they don’t go to advanced manufacturing centres like this. The way to get girls into engineering is to have more facilities like this.”

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