North East firm struggling to recruit engineers despite footing university bill

Sevcon pays students through university and guarantees them work - but says it can't find candidates from the region

Matt Boyle, Danielle Walsh and Gerhard Fehringer
Matt Boyle, Danielle Walsh and Gerhard Fehringer

A scheme which guarantees graduates a job after university is struggling to find North East recruits - despite offering to pay students’ tuition fees.

Matt Boyle, chief executive of Team Valley-based Sevcon, has pledged up to £27,000 of financial support to young people to help them into engineering.

He’s attracted applicants from Manchester, Wales and even China - but not one local youngster has come forward for the programme.

Now, he is calling for regional talent to consider the opportunity, which he hopes could help tackle a chronic shortage of skilled engineers in the North East.

Mr Boyle launched the scheme in 2012, and currently has seven students enrolled. The bursary covers university fees of up to £9,000 a year and offers a £35,000 a year starting wage at the local electric and hybrid vehicle component manufacturer.

The company employs over 60 engineers at its Team Valley headquarters but is constantly looking to recruit more skilled staff to support the needs of the growing business.

Matt Boyle, President and Chief Executive Officer of the electric vehicle control manufacturer Sevcon
Matt Boyle, President and Chief Executive Officer of the electric vehicle control manufacturer Sevcon

But not one applicant hoping to take advantage of Sevcon’s scheme so far hails from the North East.

Mr Boyle says the region needs to better support subjects in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

“We haven’t educated kids going into university and showed them how good a career in engineering can be,” he said.

“An engineer at degree level will be paid £35,000 starting wage at our company with the potential to earn a six-figure salary relatively early in their career.

“Our engineers have the opportunity to travel the world, visiting our offices in the Far East and North America. It’s an exciting career, with plenty of scope for promotion.

“However, maths and science which are essential subjects for engineering have always proved challenging. A degree in engineering is no cake walk. It’s a lot of hard work but in the end it’s more rewarding.

“We’re living in a region with high youth unemployment levels but there are companies like mine crying out for a pipeline of skilled workers.

“In Germany, there’s a 0% unemployment rate for engineers and the same could easily go for this region.

“But unlike the Germans, the Americans or the Japanese we don’t value these invaluable skills. If you’re a degree-qualified engineer overseas you’re highly revered whereas here it’s a case of the washing machine is broke, can you fix it?

“We definitely need to change that mentality. At 10-years-old children are thinking about being footballers but we need to start them thinking about a career in engineering.”

Matt Boyle, president and chief executive of Sevcon
Matt Boyle of Sevcon

Sevcon has recruited third year Northumbria University computing student Danielle Walsh to its student bursary scheme.

Sevcon is paying Danielle’s annual £8,500 tuition fees and on completion in summer 2015 she will take up a software engineering post.

Danielle is the first Northumbria University student to win a place on the Sevcon scheme after Newcastle University student Ehsan Dehghan-Azad’s recruitment last autumn.

Danielle, 20, who comes from Chorlton, Manchester, said: “I was extremely overwhelmed and happy to hear I had made an impression at Sevcon and now I have a chance to work with an amazing company and develop my programming skills to an exceptional standard.

“The securing of my future both financially and as a valuable employee is truly wonderful and I will be eternally grateful to Sevcon.”

Recent research revealed that university applications from the North East have fallen by nearly 12% after the decision to increase tuition fees.


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