Nine Twenty Industry Update: An Interview with Lise McCaffery

Nine Twenty Industry Update: An Interview with Lise McCaffery

Emma HartEngineering

Nine Twenty Engineering & Manufacturing Director, Karen Stewart, will be hosting regular online industry updates including hints & tips for candidates and clients across the Engineering & Manufacturing sector and beyond.


In this 3rd edition, Karen chats to Lise McCaffery, Regional Director at Primary Engineer. Lise started with Primary Engineer as Director in Scotland in July 2016 having worked in education for 12 years and completed her Master’s in Education with a focus on STEM.



What are you trying to achieve?

Primary Engineer have been working with schools for the last decade to increase pupil outcomes in STEM, to promote careers in engineering and manufacturing and to address the gender imbalance in science and engineering. Our big focus is on teacher development from Early Years, through Primary and into Secondary as a more sustainable model for promoting engineering skills. Last year we worked with 1,174 teachers who taught curriculum based engineering projects to 42,000 pupils. Of the 735 schools we worked with, 422 engineers linked to the schools to help provide context for the activities. This year we are on track to double these figures.


What is the biggest challenge you face?

For some in industry, working at Early Years and Primary level isn’t seen as the priority.  It can be quite frustrating! Maybe they think their company’s need for apprentices or graduates is more immediate so it’s understandable that they might not see the benefit to their business.  But in 2013 Professor John Perkins, Chief Scientific Adviser at the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, identified the ‘leaky pipe’ of talent lost to industry and business in the Perkins Engineering Skills Report and last year he joined the Primary Engineer Advisory Board to champion that engineering has to begin earlier - much earlier - in fact, in primary schools.


Who are your biggest supporters?

We have some really wonderful partners in industry and education who help us in our work: from the Institute of Mechanical Engineers to the University of Strathclyde, from Skills Development Scotland to Transport Scotland. Our work with Allied Vehicles is a really interesting model of how corporate social responsibility and outreach can also benefit companies’ future workforce.  Gerry Facenna, their CEO, gave us £16,000 to Primary Engineer to work with the schools in and around Springburn with a view to giving back to the community they are based in but also with a view to promoting careers with the fast-growing manufacturers.  We were so pleased when Glasgow City Council matched that funding and as a result, we have worked with 90% of Primary schools in Glasgow already and by next year it will be 100%.  Also, none of our work with schools would be possible without the AMAZING engineers who give up their time to work with teachers and pupils as part of our projects!


What is the best part of your job?

The range of partners we work with is really interesting and keeps me on my toes! I feel so passionate about teacher development so really enjoy leading our Professional Recognition course for teachers called Engineering STEM Learning.  I completed my Master’s in Education whilst working full time in education with a young family at home and whilst it was hard work (!) I love communicating with teachers that it is achievable AND enjoyable. It’s one of the best things I’ve done in my career and the action research I conducted greatly impacted on my pedagogy. The Engineering STEM Learning course is about to be accredited as a PGCert at the University of Strathclyde which means teachers can use this course to work towards their own MEd at Strathclyde. Feels great to pass on the opportunities I had to others.


What’s next?


World domination! But after a busy first 6 months with Primary Engineer, maybe a quick respite over Christmas with the family!


If you want to find out more about the services that Primary Engineering offer, or visit the website!

If you are interested in discussing either hosting an industry specific seminar or sharing your knowledge and experience in a similar way to this blog, contact Karen Stewart on or call the office directly on + (141) 231 1260.

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