Women in engineering: TBM’s latest recruit
Every business needs to keep an eye on the future, and apprentices offer companies a way to invest in the people and skills they need to grow. TBM’s latest recruit, Lara, is now part of the booming UK engineering sector.
On paper, joining a company that offers passenger comfort services to rail and road transport operators doesn’t seem a logical career move for a young lady that studied at Sandbach Girls School Sixth Form in Cheshire. Subjects like Creative Media Production, History and ICT looked likely to take her to university.
Lara, 18, had other ideas, and the chance to learn and earn seemed the perfect combination for her. In mid-August, she joined TBM as Business Administration Apprentice.
She said: ‘I liked that TBM was a medium-sized company, not too many employees so that I’d be side-lined onto smaller projects. I knew that I’d get a chance to progress to different, more challenging roles as the company grows. Developing my overall skillset was always important to me.
‘From the start I have been working on real client accounts. I’ve been shown how to invoice for customers such as Siemens and Bombardier. I’ve also been trained in more complex procedures within the banking process, such as how to make payments and reconcile the bank figures.’
At TBM, although the office space concentrates on accounts, sales, documentation and administration, the day-to-day engineering operations are ongoing all around. From seat cover cleaning to toilet tank overhauls, grab pole refurbishments and door sensor development to fitting power and USB sockets, there’s something happening in the busy workshops. Lara has been able to get an understanding of how each element of the business operates.
Being able to mix-and-match was something that appealed to Lara, but doesn’t that make her a female role model within engineering?
‘When you think about trains, transport, etc, you do think more about men working within the traditional engineering settings, although that is changing. However, when it comes to an administrative role it’s still considered more for women.
‘So, no, as I am predominately involved on the office side of things at the moment I do not particularly feel as though I am a role model for young women, although it’s great being part of a larger engineering function. I’ve learned a lot about the technical side of things, and watching some of the daily workshop tasks is fascinating. I do think more women should try and enter the rail industry as engineers, as that will continue to break down these boundaries.’
Lara has joined TBM during a busy phase of growth. A three-year grab pole refurbishment contract has commenced with Southern (GTR), while Hull Trains (First Group) have engaged TBM to roll out power sockets to its entire fleet. A recent partnership with German-based Captron Electronics promises much, and discussions are ongoing to supply door sensor buttons to a regional fleet due for a major refit.
Also, following significant investment, the arrival of new toilet tank cleaning equipment (including a 300 gallon Bowser) means that demand for tank servicing and overhaul from rail and bus operators continues to rise. It’s certainly an eye-opener for Lara who had only known the classroom before.
She added: ‘I would like to learn the more complex side to the accounts, banking and financial planning at TBM, as it is something I’ve never done before. Developing client relationships and dealing with experienced industry professionals will also help with my own career development.
‘There is a lot to be excited about at TBM. We deal with large companies, operators and suppliers every day. There are some significant rail and road projects pending, and the vehicles needed to transport passengers will always need maintaining and upgrading. So the workload and range of engineering tasks that I become involved with is sure to increase. Something different happens every day!’
Lara is TBM’s third Business Administration apprentice, following in the footsteps of Abi, who is now fully involved in the day-to-day operation of the business, and Kirsty who recently moved on to different challenges with a national rail logistics firm.
In addition to her TBM workload, Lara will enjoy visits from a South Cheshire College mentor who will assess progress and set project work that Lara will need to cover under the apprenticeship scheme, plus sit exams after each module.
TBM is currently expanding and in discussions to relocate to larger premises within Crewe. There are now plans to recruit engineering apprentices as the company develops additional products and services for the transport sector.