National Women in Engineering Day: How businesses can engineer a brighter future by employing more women

By Jo Mannan, Production Engineering Capability Manager at AWE, member of The 5% Club


For years, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics skills have been integral to the UK’s economic success.

The STEM disciplines have long been viewed the bedrock of research and innovation underpinning high-value products and services. They are the subjects which provided the foundations on which British innovation was built.

Yet even now the selling of STEM subjects at school and the recruitment of female engineers remains an on-going problem. This is why it is so poignant that National Women in Engineering Day comes at a time when female engineers are needed more than ever to close the gender gap and sustain Britain’s economy.

The importance of having a strong, talented pipeline of engineers is reflected in the fact that in 2013 the turnover of all engineering firms exceeded £1 trillion, representing nearly a quarter of all UK enterprises. [1] Last year, the engineering industry, reportedly represented 19.5% of the UK’s workforce, a key driver in sustaining and developing the UK’s economy and providing the materials both society and industry need to thrive.

By promoting diversity and inclusion in the STEM sector, that pipeline can be made even more robust, perhaps even more innovative. This is why greater effort needs to be made to encourage women into the sector.

Jo Mannan

Jo Mannan

The stigma attached to female in the engineering industry still exists, with many assuming Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics are subjects for male students, restricting the amount of women who pursue careers in engineering and allowing the skills crisis to become ever more concerning.

The most recent statistics from WISE, the campaign that promotes Women in Science and Engineering, states that women only make up around 13% of the workforce in STEM occupations, the lowest rate in all the European countries.[2]

As part of planning for economic growth as a country, we have to make sure we have the right pipeline of talent and skills to deliver. There is plenty of good work being undertaken by Government and professional bodies such as the Royal Academy of Engineering, but more needs to be done in industry, to ultimately create the jobs and play a vital part on the demand side.

Moreover, on top of being good for tackling youth unemployment, and therefore enabling the workforce and its growth, having more women on a team is highly beneficial for businesses. Women solve problems differently to their male peers, they see different issues and different answers. By diversifying perspectives, skills and voices, businesses become stronger, more productive and more resilient. This makes closing the gender gap an even more integral business need. After all, engineering is so diverse in its nature. Once synonymous with the world of engines and moving parts, it now embraces so much in technology, medicine and manufacturing.

And as it is a business need, it is up to businesses to take the initiative. Businesses have the power to truly, actively, change how STEM industries are perceived.

By providing high quality training routes into engineering careers for women and working with schools, colleges and universities to leverage this, businesses can help dissolve the stigma and provide plentiful careers for women in engineering.

This is a common perception I share with the other British engineering companies that are part of The 5% Club who believe apprentice, graduate and sponsored student training schemes provide the answer to alleviating the skills crisis, youth unemployment and the gender gap in STEM subjects.

Now with 97 businesses in the campaign all striving towards a brighter future for our young people, The 5% Club members share best practice about issues in the industry such as encouraging more women to pursue careers in engineering.

AWE is a company with a long tradition of running a successful engineering apprenticeship scheme. AWE apprentices are one of the most integral parts of our organisation making it a natural move for us to join The 5% Club eighteen months ago. Currently, 11% of our workforce is made up of former apprentices, many of whom have enjoyed long and rewarding careers at AWE.

As well as providing high quality engineering careers to young people, we pride ourselves in being at the forefront of promoting women in STEM. Last year, two of our employees were nominated for the 2014 WISE Awards, the most prestigious awards recognising organisations and individuals that inspire women in engineering.

Samantha McRae from the AWE skills academy has been a key figure in encouraging more women to take up engineering apprenticeships with AWE, whilst Jenny McGrowther has worked to improve diversity and inclusion.

AWE had the highest intake of female apprenticeships ever in 2014 and we are constantly striving to encourage young females to choose STEM disciplines in later and further education and ultimately to take up careers in STEM professions.

If more businesses start to take this proactive approach and raise awareness of formal training schemes, we can help close the gender gap, relieve the demand for STEM skills and help the UK remain competitive in the Global economy.

Apprenticeship and graduate programmes offer a great route into STEM careers and tackle the skills demand by immersing future engineers in a professional environment at the earliest opportunity.

With women like Samantha and Jenny trailblazing the way, it is clear change is inevitable and imminent. If businesses do not want to be left behind by these keen-minded problem solvers, it is time they embrace and pioneer diversity.

By engaging, inspiring and supporting young women to achieve their potential in engineering, we can help them become the industry leaders of tomorrow.

To find out more information about The 5% Club and how to become a member, please visit or get in touch by emailing

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Since its beginnings as a small, family-run business over 24 years ago, T.O.M. Vehicle Rental has always prided itself on being a part of its local community and has grown into one of its local area’s largest private employers.

T.O.M. currently employs 76 Scottish Apprentices as part of its workforce and plans to invite another 18 to join the business over the summer further to announcing plans which expect to see the company’s fleet of vehicles double to around 18,000 vehicles by 2018.

With its efforts in providing great opportunities for apprentices, it was a natural decision for T.O.M. to join The 5% Club and the company looks forward to striving towards a brighter future for young people with the other members.


The aim of T.O.M’s apprenticeship scheme is to help develop young people in trades in a positive working environment as part of a diverse team who are collectively tasked with ‘making it happen’ for rental customers across the country.

Company Founder and Chief Executive, Jim Rafferty knows the benefits of a good apprenticeship. He started as an apprentice with a Ford garage in the local area and has always been passionate about ensuring that others are offered the same opportunities that he enjoyed.

“As we grow, we will continue to invest in young people through our Apprenticeship scheme. This safeguards skilled labour succession within our business which ultimately means we can continue to deliver the highest service levels to our customers. We place great emphasis on this and each of our apprentices are valuable members of our team”.

T.O.M. recruits apprentices from its local community, working closely with schools in the local area to encourage young people to participate in work experience, a scheme which has provided several excellent apprentices to the business in recent years.


T.O.M. invests in its apprentices from day one, coaching them in particular disciplines within the business including light and heavy vehicle mechanics, partsmen, painters, panel beaters and coachbuilders, together with training from major manufacturers including Mercedes-Benz, Ford, Vauxhall and Citroen Cars, Vans and HGVs. The areas in which T.O.M. trains apprentices continues to evolve and during 2015 the company has started its first new apprentices for Business Administration, Fleet Management and Rental Sales.

Second year van mechanic Scott Aagesen (pictured below) said “I really enjoy working at T.O.M. and being a part of it. I have learnt a lot from the more experienced technicians and the Mercedes-Benz training courses and feel as though I am developing all the time”

Anyone interested in joining T.O.M. Vehicle Rental as an apprentice is invited to email their CV to

To find out more information about T.O.M. Vehicle Rental please visit

To find out more information about The 5% Club and how to become a member, please visit or get in touch by emailing

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Tenet and The 5% Club

Tenet is the specialist Control, Electrical & Instrumentation (CE&I) and Mechanical engineering design consultancy based in the North West of England has joined The 5% Club. The company provides niche design and technical services to a variety of industry sectors including pharmaceuticals; agrochemicals; utilities; and nuclear.

Tenet logo

Tenet has an established track record and reputation for being able to provide quality engineering designs and support to clients to meet the very highest standards.

Tenets personnel work collaboratively with clients and the supply chain to provide feasibility and optioneering studies; engineering and safety system design; detailed design; safety system substantiations and independent peer reviews on existing plant new design packages.

“Developing a sustainable workforce to address the long term engineering skills gap is a top priority” says Engineering Director Jeff Huyton.

Since 2010 Tenet has been a member of the National Apprenticeship Scheme and has operated its own internal design apprenticeship meaning it was a natural move for the company to join The 5% Club.

Through Tenet’s apprenticeship scheme, trainees are able to achieve their NVQ level 3 and gain valuable design work experience. Several Tenet trainees have progressed onwards to complete HNCs in engineering and two have recently started undergraduate courses at University.

Tenet trainees are supported in the workplace with a mentor to help them develop personal and professional skills. During their apprenticeship the company ensures that trainees work with a number of senior personnel across a wide range of projects.

Mark_EThis helps them gain a wealth of engineering industry knowledge and prepares them for more senior roles, as well as aiding company succession plans.

Tenet’s investment in personnel has been rewarded by employee’s loyalty to the business and by the skills and capabilities they now hold.

Where possible Tenet recruit personnel locally and actively seek creative people who are able to apply new or innovative technologies and methodologies to solve engineering challenges.

Tenet is also playing a crucial role in establishing the Warrington University Technical College (UTC) which is due to open in 2016. The principle of this college is to give 14-19 year olds an advantage in a future career in the Energy and Engineering sectors by focussing on the core subjects of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). The UTC will train the young engineers of tomorrow and help tackle the problem of a dwindling engineering resource pool. Tenet are a member of the UTC Trust and Operations Director Aidan McManus will sit on the Board of Trustees. Ultimately Tenet aim to accept a selection of students from the UTC into our apprenticeship scheme.

To find out more about Tenet Consultants Ltd and the opportunities they offer, please visit our website:

To find out more information about The 5% Club and how to become a member, please visit or get in touch by emailing

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Copsey Engineering commits to the next generation by joining The 5% Club

copsey engineering

Copsey Engineering, based in Witham, Essex has showcased its commitment to the next generation by joining The 5% Club.

Copsey Engineering’s reason for joining the campaign is to publicise its commitment that as an employer it recognises the importance of investing in new skills to enable future growth in the business.

In order to create opportunities for young people, Copsey Engineering are currently developing three apprentices who were already part of its workforce and are actively seeking further apprentices.

Copsey Engineering’s ability to expand is reliant on the availability of a skilled workforce and considers this investment in training akin to its investment plan.

Copsey’s three apprentices are currently working towards NVQ Level 2 in Performing Engineering Operations, with the expectation of achieving a Level 3 Diploma in Engineering in the future. The apprentices are being verified for their NVQ by I.P.S. International Ltd.

To find out more information about Copsey Engineering, please visit

To find out more information about The 5% Club and how to become a member, please visit or get in touch by emailing

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Clark Contracts commits to the next generation by joining The 5% Club


Clark Contracts, the construction, refurbishment and maintenance company, has showcased its commitment to the next generation by joining The 5% Club.

Clark Contracts recognises the importance of recruiting apprentices, graduates and students throughout its operations ensuring new talent is consistently brought into the company.

One of Clark Contracts own Directors, Gerry Cummins, was recruited via the company’s training and development programme as a graduate of Glasgow Caledonian University with whom the contractor has strong links.

Having started his career at Clark Contracts as Assistant Quantity Surveyor in 2004, Gerry progressed to Quantity Surveyor, Senior Quantity Surveyor, Commercial Manager, Business Unit Manager and became Director in 2013.

Gordon Cunningham, Managing Director of Clark Contracts, said “Becoming a member of the 5% Club allows us to publically share our commitment to the recruitment and training of apprentices, students and graduates. At present we have 13 employees who are studying at college and university and this is only set to grow.

“We are in the process of recruiting for a number of new apprentices across various trades who will join the Modern Apprenticeship Scheme when the new academic year starts in August 2015.”

Dr Sam Healy, Programme Director of The 5% Club said, “We’re delighted to welcome Clark Contracts to the initiative. The company’s existing efforts to invest in the next generation are greatly welcomed and together we can strive towards a brighter future for young people in Britain.”

For more information about Clark Contracts, please visit the website

To find out more information about The 5% Club and how to become a member, please visit or get in touch by Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn as well!

An insight into Apprenticeships with AWE

Picture 4- Skills Academy Circa 1950

As a company with a long tradition of running a successful apprenticeship scheme, AWE (Atomic Weapons Establishment) apprentices are one of the most integral parts of the organisation.

AWE has been running one of the country’s most successful apprenticeship schemes for over 60 years. Currently, 11% of its workforce is made up of former apprentices, many of whom have enjoyed long and rewarding careers at the company

AWE has an extensive apprenticeship scheme that will recruit 45 new apprentices this year.

Previous recruits have gained a multitude of skills thanks to hands on industry experience Picture 3 - Precision Machinist Apprentice_Daniel Hornblow_2015
alongside training and achieving qualifications.

Dani Smithers attended The Hurst School where her interest in engineering grew and decided to get involved with the apprenticeship scheme at AWE after hearing about their impressive record of supporting women in the industry.

AWE increased the number of young women in their apprenticeship scheme from 5% to 15% in 2014.

AWE ensures that apprentices are challenged and given responsibility for their own work. They learn in a practical environment, learning on the job skills and are contributing to the success of AWE throughout their time with the company.

Dani said, “I’m loving my apprenticeship – it is much better than I ever expected and I’m so glad I chose this route. The responsibility I am given and the sense of pride I get from working here is great.”

Matt Grimston, another AWE apprentice, had always been interested in electronics and worked hard to do well in his interview of AWE. He feels that he is working in a positive environment with lots of support and endless learning opportunities to learn new skills and be challenged.

“I feel that working for AWE is really setting me up for a great career.” Matt says, “I would definitely recommend the apprenticeship route. You get real-life hands-on work experience, formal qualifications and get paid at the same time. It really has been the best decision for my career.”

For more information or to apply for the AWE apprentice scheme, go to –

To find out more information about The 5% Club and how to become a member, please visit or get in touch by emailing

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Charlie Mullins: I Owe My Success To Apprenticeships

Pimlico Plumbers

Charlie Mullins, founder of The 5% Club member Pimlico Plumbers credits the skills he learnt during his four-year apprenticeship as a crucial factor in his success.

He describes his own apprenticeship as “one of the best things I’ve ever done” and it is for this reason that he ensures his company Pimlico Plumbers actively seek to offer high-quality apprenticeships to those looking to enter trade.

Mullins says: “Pimlico offers standard apprenticeships called the NVQ2 apprenticeships which is the equivilent of the City Guild years ago. They last three years. You get a certificate of qualification at the end of that and we won’t offer anything less than that as they can be diluted and aren’t always the real-deal.”

As well as offering apprenticeships for those looking to train in plumbing, there are also training option for those working in other departments including finance and HR.

Charlie-MullinsAs with all apprentices, Pimlico’s scheme is heavily moderate to make sure than not only do trainees have the adequate standard of teaching, but that those on the scheme are committed to taking control of their learning. The HR Manager liaises with the colleges in charge of the classroom-based learning aspect of the apprenticeship to make sure pupils are regularly attending and to offer extra support where necessary.

The quality of training is also moderated externally by the apprenticeship agencies supplying the company with new recruits. On a monthly basis they enter the workplace and assess the training that is offered, reporting back as to how well the company’s provision of training is.

According to Mullins “the feedback we’ve been given is really good because our apprentices are really eager to learn and they understand we have high standards.

“If an apprentice continually doesn’t turn up or doesn’t do their work, then they are out. We’ve only ever had this happen once, years ago.  All this administration, and the salary adds up – so we’re only willing to train staff if they are willing to learn.”

Pimlico Plumbers apprentice

Despite this, Mullins refers to his apprentices as being a “priceless commodity” as well as a long-term investment. As well as being the foundations upon which the future of the business is built, he also claims that having young-blood in the company brings “so much enthusiasm and so much joy to the work-force because you have a mixture of young and old people.”

He adds: “You also get to mould them while they are learning, so when you are finished you get the perfect employee for the work-place.”

To find out more information about Pimlico Plumber’s apprenticeship scheme, please visit

To find out more information about The 5% Club and how to become a member, please visit or get in touch by emailing

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