Manufacturer of hydraulic excavators, Komatsu UK is digging deep to boost skills and help future-proof the regional workforce.
Komatsu UK Ltd is empowering engineering staff to work as STEM ambassadors, promoting science, technology, engineering and maths to students, as well as attending and speaking at events for local schools, colleges and universities.
Design engineer Kathryn Mullins is one of Komatsu UK’s 17 STEM advocates.
Based at the firm’s Birtley plant, Mullins is passionate about inspiring more young people to focus their studies in STEM areas, which are highly prized by most employers.
Along with colleague Jane Hodgson, Mullins was a judge at the national F1 in Schools competition; an event held at Birmingham’s NEC that attracted more than 100 student competitors.
Mullins commented: “STEM is everywhere; it shapes everyday experiences and is part of most people’s working day.
“Getting the message across to young people about how important these subjects are is vital and something we at Komatsu are very passionate about.
“STEM-based careers are the fuel that powers the regional economy. We want to ensure there remains a strong focus on encouraging and showcasing not only the fantastic employment opportunities our region boasts in the engineering sector but also the wealth of job possibilities open to those with good results in STEM subjects.”
With females representing only 7% of the UK engineering workforce – the lowest percentage of female engineering professionals in Europe, while Latvia, Bulgaria and Cyprus lead with nearly 30% – more is being done by both businesses and the Government to encourage further women to explore engineering as a career.
Mullins continued: “I think it is vital that we encourage more women to consider careers in engineering.
“For a forward-thinking, progressive nation, the low proportion of women working in engineering is something we need to address by bringing business and education closer together. We want to inspire students and open their eyes to the myriad of career possibilities which engineering qualifications can provide.
“We hope that by involving professional company ambassadors who are used to working in a modern, well-known business like Komatsu UK, we will capture the imagination of young people and hopefully sow the ‘seed of interest’.”
According to North East Chamber of Commerce (NECC) research, more than 8,500 skilled people will retire from the regional engineering sector before 2016. This, coupled with a decline in young people exploring STEM careers, creates a risk that young people’s skill won’t match opportunities within the region.
NECC chief executive, James Ramsbotham said: “It is vital that more companies, particularly those involved in the engineering sector, follow Komatsu’s example and take action to bring together the worlds of education and business to highlight the exciting employment opportunities across the industry.
“Our manufacturers continue to underpin the regional economy. We must do all we can to ensure this is maintained well into the future, creating jobs and wealth for generations to come.”