Engineering IS for girls says BBC star Steph McGovern

Steph McGovern, Beth Curtis of the National College for High Speed Rail, and girls from UTC Sheffield. Pic Marie Caley.
Steph McGovern, Beth Curtis of the National College for High Speed Rail, and girls from UTC Sheffield. Pic Marie Caley.
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Crossrail, Wimbledon, the MoD – and Steph McGovern.

Sheffield firm Tinsley Bridge is a key player in a host of high-profile projects, including possibly the most urgent – how to get more women into engineering.

Steph McGovern and Mark Webber, MD of Tinsley Bridge Group

Steph McGovern and Mark Webber, MD of Tinsley Bridge Group

Already facing a skills crisis and an image problem with young people – it is further hobbled by a lack of interest from women – just six per cent of the engineering workforce are female.

So the company teamed up with BBC business presenter Steph McGovern and the National College for High Speed Rail for an event designed to inspire Sheffield schoolgirls.

And the down-to-earth Middlesbrough lass gave the perfect pep talk to her teenage audience.

She said: “There are loads of really cool jobs in engineering that you might not know anything about. It’s not all mucky plants and hard hats, these days most are doing things on Macs.”

The group was formed from the merger of three engineering firms. Picture: Marie Caley

The group was formed from the merger of three engineering firms. Picture: Marie Caley

Steph worked at Black and Decker for a year and won Young Engineer for Britain aged 19.

It led to her being interviewed for a BBC programme and a part-time job when she was studying for an engineering degree in London.

When the Corporation offered her a permanent position, she faced a huge dilemma – and still faces criticism for her choice today.

She added: “Now I get an engineering company on television every week, which promotes the sector, so I don’t feel so guilty. But I wouldn’t have got here without engineering, it gives me so much credibility. It gives you such a competitive strength.

Tinsley Bridge developed Extralite torsion bars for Warrior defence vehicles

Tinsley Bridge developed Extralite torsion bars for Warrior defence vehicles

“Don’t think you can’t do what you want to do, science and engineering is a key way to stand out.”

Tinsley Bridge Group, on Shepcote Lane, employs 215 across three firms. Just two of the 35 engineers are female, Dr Lucy Bull and Katie Cormier.

MD Mark Webber said: “We would take on all the work experience girls we get as apprentices, they are just far more interested.”

To the girls he said: “There’s a massive national shortage of engineers which means there’s a lot of really exciting opportunities in a very varied industry.”

The company has the widest engineering capability of any in the region, he added, and it is having a good year.

It makes suspension components for the European truck industry, which is 15 per cent up since Christmas, so is big exporter Tyzack Machine Knives.

The fabrication division is working on a £2m contract to supply 20 eight-tonne hinges for the new retractable roof at No1 Court at Wimbledon. It is supplying dampers to Crossrail in London and has won its first nuclear fabrication job.

The Group also makes ‘stretcher bars’ for Network Rail, which replace traditional points in high risk areas. They were developed after the Potter’s Bar crash which killed seven. The “massive” £10m contract, won three years ago, came at a time when the firm’s traditional markets were at a very low ebb, Mr Webber said.

Tinsley Bridge is also an enthusiastic member of ‘Made in Sheffield’.

Mr Webber added: “All three businesses make metal-based products and MiS is a very good name which is recognised around the world.

“It has also encouraged companies to talk to each other. I’ve found if we seek advice it can help both companies. And it’s a good way to find good firms in Sheffield and source locally.”

Are you an MiS member? Contact me: david.walsh@thestar.co.uk