Leonardo is set to make their roles more accessible to diverse job applicants, through a new collaboration with STEM Returners where candidates will be recruited for six months of every year between April and October.
Following a successful pilot, Leonardo has chosen International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) to launch their new STEM Returner programme, which they are scaling up to hire 25 Returners before October. Whilst open to all, INWED provides an opportunity to highlight the careers available to women who are looking to move into a career with Leonardo, in engineering roles spanning systems, software, electronics and projects.
A year ago, Dr Princess Udeze came to a career crossroads. After a PhD in medical engineering at Queen Mary University of London, she worked in several roles at a company that sold medical equipment, but found that her job was going to be made redundant due to a lack of business caused by the pandemic.
She found a new job at a digital company offering online resources to hospitals and nursing homes for those living with dementia, however while she enjoyed the work itself, she discovered that the office culture there was less than welcoming, making her feel increasingly unappreciated.
That was when STEM Returners got in touch and asked her if she would consider applying for a role as a Systems Engineer at aerospace engineering company Leonardo in Luton.
Princess said: “I just thought ‘wow’ – this sounds so interesting, however, it was totally different to anything I had done in the past but I am incredibly excited to embark on this new chapter. Having obtained a PhD in medical engineering, I believe I possess a robust foundation in cutting-edge research, problem-solving, and critical thinking, which will be an essential transferrable skills. I had a first interview then another then got the job and was told the role would be a placement initially, but soon after they told me they had decided to keep me on so it became a permanent contract.”
Princess immediately felt welcomed by the team, with presentations and events briefing her on Leonardo technology, as well as the benefits package offered to employees. Although she had never worked in the aerospace defence industry before, she felt accepted by her team straight away. The level of support and encouragement she received ensured that she didn’t feel overwhelmed by the volume of new information she was learning for the first time.
She is now thriving on the Global Combat Air Programme (GCAP), the project led by the UK, Italy and Japan to create a next generation combat aircraft by 2035, where she is exploring new engineering techniques alongside the other team members. GCAP will build on the substantial progress already made in the UK by BAE Systems, Leonardo UK, MBDA UK, Rolls-Royce and the UK Ministry of Defence who have been working in partnership since 2018 as Team Tempest to research, evaluate and develop a host of next generation future combat air systems capabilities.
Princess now wants to encourage other women to grasp new opportunities without hesitation.
Princess said: “Get rid of the fear and just dive in. Never in my wildest imagination did I think I would work in the aerospace engineering. Every day for me seems to be new and that is the reason I enjoy it. Be prepared to learn and put in the time to research the new field you are working in, because that will help you to piece it all together in your mind. I realise now that my background in research for my degree and my PhD has been vital, as if I don’t know something I know how to ask for help or look for the information. The computer modelling I did at university has also been another useful skill I have been able to transfer. At first I was so quiet sitting in meetings with other PhDs and graduates and now I feel so confident, I am quite comfortable about debating different approaches to new technology. Think about all of the skills you can transfer into a new role and don’t be intimidated if you haven’t worked in the industry before, it just means you’ll bring a totally fresh perspective.”
STEM Returners’ recent research has confirmed that talented people on career breaks often get left behind by flawed recruitment processes and they are working to identify and remove the hidden barriers they encounter when attempting to return to work.
Natalie Desty, Director of STEM Returners, said: “Leonardo UK has become one of our most supportive allies in trying to eliminate the career break curse. Whilst the programme is open to all returners, INWED presents an opportunity to highlight the disparity of women in STEM, as well as those wanting to return to a STEM role. Forty-six per cent of our returners are women, which is significantly higher than the number of women working in the industry, which is just 14 per cent.
We hope it will enable more people to return to the profession they love.”
Rachel Ruxton, Head of Inclusion and Diversity at Leonardo said: “We want to remove the barriers as we need a diversity of talent to power our technology. Princess is working on capability that will contribute to a highly advanced future combat air programme and her transferrable skills will enrich this new innovation, as she will be able to introduce totally different approaches we may not have considered had we not identified someone from outside our industry. That is what will give our technology a real edge when we are building for the future. I am so heartened to hear that she has felt welcomed and valued in her new team and as engineering is an endlessly fascinating field, we look forward to her career growing for many years at Leonardo.”