Profile: Emma Cygan

Emma is the first female engineering apprentice at Pailton Engineering, and is now completing her degree alongside work

Currently, women account for 47% of Britain’s labour force, but just 9% of the country’s engineering workforce. It is clear there is a need for more women in this sector. To help with this, Steering system manufacturer, Pailton Engineering is sponsoring one of its female engineers to study for an engineering degree at Coventry University part time.

Emma Cygan from Coventry made headlines in 2014 for becoming the first female engineering apprentice at Pailton Engineering. After successfully completing her apprenticeship training, Cygan has continued to forge quite the engineering career at Pailton and is a great advocate for women in engineering. Not only has she attained the title of design and development engineer, she has also begun studying for an engineering degree.

Leading national initiatives

Pailton’s ongoing support to help up-skill its workforce fits in with the latest government strategy. Phillip Hammond announced the National Retraining Partnership in the recent Autumn Budget 2017 speech, which will involve employer-designed courses and work-based training to bridge the skills and productivity gap. This scheme will be integral to form an effective industrial strategy for Britain.

“The skills gap wasn’t really on my mind when I made the decision to pursue engineering,” explained Cygan. “At first I wanted to be a stewardess, but that all changed when I was put forward by a teacher to take a fast track GCSE in design. When I found out that I had achieved an A* grade, I knew I was meant to pursue this further.”

“I’m very glad looking back that I didn’t go straight to university as I prefer more practical, hands-on work. With the support of Pailton, I have gained so many new skills and feel so much more confident studying for my engineering degree with my real-world experience. Having used industry standard software such as Solidworks already, it makes it far less scary to use at university.”

Meeting demand

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Engineering is a dynamic, ever-expanding sector and there is a high demand for well qualified engineers, making them among the most sought-after and highly paid professionals in the UK. This makes Cygan’s journey particularly prosperous, as she continues to progress in her career.

I’m very glad looking back that I didn’t go straight to university as I prefer more practical, hands-on work. – Emma Cygan, engineering apprentice

“My role at the minute is dealing with design continuous improvement projects and customer enquiries to meet specified requirements. I manage the Engineering Change Notification (ECN) system, meaning that I use Solidworks software to carry out  updates that are required in terms of design, or if a CAD drawing needs modifying. My role is constantly evolving, as I am working towards being a senior design engineer.”

Cygan spends Tuesday and Thursday nights at Coventry University as part of her studies and she uses the context of her work at Pailton to help with assignments. In her final year, Cygan will also be expected to carry out an industry focused dissertation, researching a specific area of engineering. Luckily, she will have Pailton’s support throughout it all.

Nick Jordan, technical engineering manager at Pailton, has had a huge role in supporting Cygan through her training.

“Pailton’s growth isn’t just about investing in new capital equipment, but also investing in people,” said Jordan. “The time and money it takes to put Emma through university will more than pay for itself as she continues to be successful in the business, building skills that ultimately result in very satisfied customers.”

“As we prepare for the future with our Lean manufacturing strategy and increased production volumes, ongoing training will always be a key element. In fact, just walking through the factory floor, you can see the multi-skills approach we take. We don’t expect one person to use one machine every day; our workforce moves around and broadens their skills as part of ongoing development.”

Pailton is leading the way for more businesses to support and invest in the up-skilling of their workforces. Encouraging more women into engineering will be a huge part of this. With the right support, the percentage of females in Britain’s engineering sector is sure to increase.

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