Coachlines - November 2018

22.11.18 Abike Looie-Somoye

Abike pushes the boundaries

If you were unable to attend the 2018 Aerospace Dinner, one highlight was a speech given by Abike Looie-Somoye, the sister of this year’s Coachmaker Jaguar Land Rover Scholarship winner, who is a Rolls-Royce Graduate Trainee. She is an enthusiastic speaker about the importance of STEM education and engineering, core causes for the Coachmakers. Abike has a 1st Class Degree in Engineering from Leicester University and is the 2018 Industrial Cadet of the Year.

This is the text of her speech:

I am honoured to be here with you all this evening; thank you very much for inviting me.

Abike Looie-Somoye

Abike Looie-Somoye

While I was at Rolls Royce as an intern, I participated in the Industrial Cadet scheme. This is similar to completing a Duke of Edinburgh Award however with this you tick off the hard and soft skills you would gain on an industrial placement instead. I worked on the concept of lean and process improvement in engineering. My style of work allowed me to build trust and eventually lead projects, and because of this I achieved Gold and Platinum Leadership awards, eventually winning Industrial Cadet of the year from HRH the Prince Of Wales.
I have now returned to Rolls-Royce, this time as an Operations Management Graduate – and my new challenge is in the facility where we assemble and test civil aerospace engines.

Although it seems I have a nice record of achievements, hidden behind those are many personal failures. To name a few, I achieved far from my predicted grades at A Level, didn’t get into either of my chosen universities and went through the clearing process to gratefully find my opportunity at the University of Leicester. In my first year I was injured in a hit and run car accident as a result of which trauma, and damaged back muscles, contributed to a year of poor exam results. Not the best set up when you are looking to apply for a year in industry.

We are often told that the only route to success is to achieve the best grades, get a degree at a prestigious Russell Group university, and land a well-paid City job. How daunting does that sound?

The truth is, although that may be a route for some, we all have our own individual and very different routes to success, and equally, success is measured in many different ways. For me I measure my success on how well I recover when the situation does not go as planned, striving for greatness and failing successfully. So I like to remind students to not be disheartened by a few bumps in the road.

To give you an idea of the diversity of the UK’s engineering workforce, these were the statistics at the beginning of the year: 91% of the engineering workforce is male and 94% of the engineering workforce is white. A lot of work is being done by smart and enlightened firms to challenge these stereotypes in engineering, and those companies in aerospace which encourage a more diverse workforce deserve our support.

In my engineering class, I was one of eight girls, I realised how important a female role model is in a male dominated environment, and how this kind of atmosphere can be demoralising and disadvantageous for us women. I was often not trusted with a hands-on task, and many did not trust my engineering knowledge. Instead of feeling discouraged, this taught me resilience and I learned the importance of being humble, helping others and actively using every opportunity to learn and develop. I do believe that women need to support each other in the pursuit of our careers, and challenge behaviours that may make one feel uncomfortable.

Coachmakers’ support and encouragement for young and talented people with potential is invaluable. On Sunday in Leicester, I was reminded of how powerful investment can be, and how many lives are touched by such a supportive and generous act. You may have heard of the tragic news about the owner of Leicester City Football club, Wichai See Watana Prab ha– his generosity gave hope and opportunity to a city, and the tributes show how important this was to so many people, my university gained the status as a University of Sanctuary, their generosity gives asylum seekers a safe home from conflict and a chance to build a new life, to learn and excel. And here today, it is genuinely overwhelming to speak in a room filled with people who actively support and invest in young people, helping us on our career paths and inspiring us with first-hand experience. Not all young people can afford to go to summer schools to learn coding, not all students can afford to go to university without balancing a part time job alongside the demands of their university course. Support and investment are so powerful, impacting, the lives of young people, the UK industry and the national economy.

I would like to say to Coachmaker scholarship winners, this opportunity is yours, and yours alone to mould, I hope you feel empowered to use every day as an opportunity to learn. Do not feel ashamed to ask for help and remember to lend a hand to those who need it. Support your peers and together we shall create an environment in which all of us can thrive.

Congratulations to all Coachmaker scholarship winners. I wish you, and the Coachmakers who support you, the very best in all of your endeavours; let’s go and change the world.