Your life in the North

Tyneside is the land of opportunity for engineers, says Stephen Pritchard

If anywhere in the UK is associated with "smokestack" heavy industry - and its decline - it is the North-east. The region bordered by the rivers Tyne and Tees was once famous for its ships and its steel. More recently, though, it has become known for depression and unemployment.

During the past few years it has seen an industrial revival as great as any other region of the UK. The principal growth areas are now light manufacturing and electronics. Firms investing in the region include household names: Samsung, Fujitsu, Caterpillar and, most recently, Siemens. Nissan, which many regard as having started the trend, has been making cars in Sunderland for more than 10 years.

This concentration of companies means the region can now offer excellent opportunities for graduates, especially in engineering. Historically, the North-east has suffered from a very low level of graduate retention; students who studied in the area went elsewhere to seek work. Now, the reverse is happening.

Huge investments from Fujitsu and, most recently, Siemens, are the best known. Smaller firms are also moving into the region; the Northern Development Company, which promotes the area to inward investors, lists some 400 companies that have chosen the North-east. Many need graduate engineers. "There are considerable opportunities in electronic engineering, and there are still openings in the automotive and process industries," says John Bridge, the chief executive of NDC.

Nissan, for example, hires three or four engineering graduates each year at its Sunderland plant. There is stiff competition for the vacancies. The company recruits a combination of local applicants and graduates from outside the region.

"We do tend to attract quite a lot of applications," points out Sean Hodgson, controller, personnel. "Like other car companies, we are seen as engineering-led." Mr Hodgson reports few problems in persuading good recruits to move to Sunderland.

Newer investors are adding to the region's pool of graduate-level jobs. Samsung, for example, is gearing up its recruitment now that its Stockton- on-Tees factory is fully operational.

One of the first stages is to build a relationship with universities in the area, says Ken Donald, director of human resources. The company is already working with the universities of Durham and Newcastle. "We see a future for graduates here," says Mr Donald. "We are looking at expanding our engineering division, and putting in skills such as research and development."

The firm, which makes televisions, computer monitors and microwave ovens at the plant, is developing a graduate training programme. The first recruits will start this autumn.

Samsung will be looking for graduates in all areas of engineering, but in particular electronics and mechanical engineers. The approach, which Mr Donald describes as the "Korean attitude", is very much hands-on. "We are looking for self-starters who are able to work on their own initiative," he says.

At Nissan, Sean Hodgson is also looking for more than just an engineer. The firm is less concerned about degree results than personality, although engineering knowledge is tested.

This is part of the company's flat management structure. At Nissan, there is no distinction between line workers and white-collar staff: indeed, graduate engineers work closely with the production department and can expect to spend a good deal of time on the shop floor.

"We need people who can fit in to the team way of working," says Mr Hodgson. "They will not be working alone as specialists. Engineers interface daily with the production department, so we are looking for practical, down- to-earth people."

The move away from the old-fashioned, hierarchical methods of management is just one change overseas investors have brought to the North-east. Traditionally, heavy industry was quite insular. Often, this was a necessity. Firms such as Vickers or Swan Hunter spent much of their time on weapons contracts, with the Ministry of Defence as the main client. Other employers were nationalised, and opportunities reflected this. "Choosing to go into a career in the late Seventies with the National Coal Board might not have been a good idea," suggests John Bridge of NDC. "Now there are more opportunities."

The new industries are very different. The firms moving to the region are global corporations, and the openings for graduates reflect this: staff at Nissan, for example, have been seconded to Japan or Europe.

The North-east is not only restricted to first jobs. Improved communications mean companies have no need to maintain head offices in London. Nissan was regarded as revolutionary when it built its headquarters at its plant in the Eighties; now this is common practice. But perhaps the most important factor is the concentration of hi-tech firms now in the region. "Graduates do not want to go to where there is just one employer," says John Bridge. The critical mass of engineering firms in the region make it more comfortable building a career there.

Once more, the North-east is becoming a serious player in the graduate jobs market: it is a case of jobs, not just fog, on the Tyne.

Sport
Thiago Silva pulls Arjen Robben back to concede a penalty
world cup 2014Brazil 0 Netherlands 3: More misery for hosts as Dutch take third place
Sport
Robin van Persie hands his third-place medal to a supporter
Van Persie gives bronze medal to eccentric fan moments after being handed it by Blatter
News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
scienceScientists have developed a material so dark you can't see it...
News
Monkey business: Serkis is the king of the non-human character performance
peopleFirst Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Voices
Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success
voicesWhen it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
News
Soft power: Matthew Barzun
peopleThe US Ambassador to London, Matthew Barzun, holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence. He says it's all part of the job
Sport
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
News
Gavin Maxwell in Sandaig with one of his pet otters
peopleWas the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?
News
Rowsell says: 'Wearing wigs is a way of looking normal. I pick a style and colour and stick to it because I don't want to keep wearing different styles'
peopleThe World Champion cyclist Joanna Rowsell on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows, Network Security)

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows...

First Class Graduate (Computer Science, Economics, Finance)

£23000 per annum: Harrington Starr: First Class Graduate (Computer Science, Ec...

Drama Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Liverpool: We are looking for someone who can t...

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?