We complete our run down of the top sectors and companies to watch in 2012 with a look at subsea cable maintenance opportunities, how the automobile industry is fighting back, and companies training grads in transferable skills.
Subsea Cable Maintenance
Global Marine Systems is the largest independent provider of submarine cable installation and maintenance worldwide. From its HQ in Chelmsford, Essex it regularly deploys vessels and teams of engineers around the coast of the UK and as far away as the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand.
Nigel Brazier is the sub-sea training manager at the company’s Portland Depot in Dorset. His main job is to train people to work with remotely operated vehicles (ROVs).
“We are constantly looking for people with mechanical and hydraulic skills that are happy to work in a roughneck environment offshore,” Brazier says. “We’ve recently taken on 12 cadets specifically to work ROVs on the energy side of the market – specifically wind farms. We’re currently looking to take on 12 more cadets - 17-26 years old – with block release foundation degree education as part of their training.”
Although the Portland depot is generally looking for trainees with at least an HNC qualification, graduates are definitely not out of the equation.
“If a grad who was keen to get their hands dirty came along we’d put them through a three week training course on the ROV – then a six-week joint training course in telecoms maintenance and repairing,” explains Brazier.
The organisation also offers work placement and apprenticeship schemes. One recent beneficiary of a work experience is Ed Voce who completed a two-week placement after finishing his GCSEs and was offered an apprenticeship with day release at college to study mechanical engineering - at the end of which he will be a junior systems technician.
“The theory I learn at college is put into play in the actual everyday side, like learning about the electrical motors that power the hydraulics,” says Voce.
Voce, who first worked offshore last September, has also learned about the importance of teamwork on a vessel where safety is particularly critical.
“Once the ROV has cut the cable that needs repairing it has to take down a line to attach to the cable to lift it up. So you have people below the sea surface working in unison with the bridge who in turn work with the people out on deck organising the crane,” he explains.
Another attraction of the job is travel. Engineers frequently work for eight weeks on and eight weeks off.
“You aren’t always on the same vessel,” says Voce. “It’s great because you learn about different systems on different ships in different parts of the world.”
Encouragingly in a predominantly men’s world Global Marine is also keen to recruit feisty women, as Nigel Brazier explains.
“It is definitely a good opportunity for women – in fact we’ve just booked three in to do ROV training. We once had a Nigerian lady who worked with us for four years and when she left she walked straight into a job with one of our competitors in Dubai. She was massively competitive with the guys – brilliant actually.”
In-company training in transferable skills
One of the key factors in upping the ante on employability in the engineering and technology sectors is being versed in your specific discipline and the business and marketing side of things. Increasingly universities are offering courses in engineering and business, and now many companies have also realised the benefits of offering structured programmes to build business and technical careers.
One such is Essex-based e2v – a high technology solutions provider working across a very wide range of niche markets including imaging devices for satellites and specialist safety-critical products in fighter jets and commercial aircraft. Recent contracts include the Hubble space telescope upgrade and the ESA’s Gaia mission to map the universe.
e2v employs approximately 1,600 people, a third of whom are engineers and scientists, and the company is investing heavily in keeping its R&D in Britain through partnerships and apprenticeships with UK academic institutions.
“We’re actively building a talent pipeline and one of the things we do annually is recruit apprentices and graduates,” explains e2v’s HR manager Dina Knight. “The way our scheme works is that there is a rotation between business and technical. The apprenticeship is four years comprising practical work experience and day-release at a college. The grad scheme is a two-year course with six month placements in different departments. Some grads come in with a goal of becoming technology specialists or design specialists for space imaging devices, others will want to specialise in business or communications. We even have accountants who come in as well.”
The automobile industry
Despite recent reports on job losses resulting from plant closures, the UK hosts more car manufacturing companies than anywhere else in the world. As well as multinationals like Honda, Toyota and BMW, the country also houses motorsports and niche manufacturers such as Bentley and Lotus, and independent manufacturing companies that supply automotive components.
In addition to design, manufacture, distribution, marketing, sales and after-sales care, the UK car industry, which is facing increasingly stiff competition globally, has begun a new initiative to improve technology and cut costs both in the actual car manufacture process and within the vehicles themselves.
There is also increased emphasis on developing vehicles that can be manufactured and powered by sustainable energy. Consequently, despite what the media would have you think, there are actually increased employment opportunities for engineers within automotive business. Currently there are opportunities for graduates in many engineering disciplines including chemical, electrical, environmental, materials, physics, aeronautical, power systems, software and telecoms.
“There’s a requirement in the automotive industry for graduates with good engineering degrees and there are opportunities for significant career progression,” says Stefan March, director of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders forum.
One of the most typical routes into the car industry is to join a graduate scheme, which lets you to work on a range of placements allowing you to find a career path that suits your talents and interests. Being able to work as part of a team is essential, as are communication skills and, increasingly, business awareness is a definite advantage.
“As well as design and manufacturing roles, an engineering degree provides a good basis for progressing into many other areas of the automotive industry, including business, logistics and commercial roles,” highlights March.
“However, you don’t need a degree in automotive engineering to work in the sector; what employers look for is a positive attitude, intellectual ability and raw talent.”