Isabelle's journey to her dream job

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Siemens saw the potential in Isabelle, a single parent

Isabelle Lee, aged 41 is a single parent to a son aged 18 and a daughter aged 15. She is one of three women who joined Siemens after gaining work experience with the company as part of Transport for London’s initiative with single parent charity Gingerbread and not-for-profit organisation Women into Construction, one of a number of programmes developed to inspire more women to join the transport industry.

Before taking a career break in 2012/13 to care for her father, who had dementia, and for her children, Isabelle worked for UK power networks and in the music industry. When she decided to return to work she was quite low on confidence and wasn’t sure what she’d be able to do. Isabelle said: “I knew that I needed to find a job with some flexibility because of my children.”

After a few months job hunting, she spotted an advert in her local Job Centre Plus for a pilot work placement scheme run by Transport for London (TfL) in partnership with Women into Construction (WiC) and Gingerbread. The pilot offered the participants a range of training, including interview skills, and after they had successfully completed it, they received a Level One Health and Safety qualification and a Construction Skills Certification Scheme Certification (CSCS) card, which enables them to work on construction sites.

TfL also worked with some of its key suppliers, including Siemens, Arriva Rail London and Arup, to arrange work placements for the participants of the programme, giving them the chance to gain real life work experience. 

Isabelle decided to give the pilot a go and attended the introductory day. She was “overwhelmed” when she heard a couple of days later that she’d been chosen to undertake a two-week administrative placement with Siemens.

Siemens, who champion partnership working, gave Isabelle a clear set of objectives to complete that would give her the skills and knowledge to apply for permanent jobs. She took the opportunity to build her skills in IT, Health and Safety and interview techniques, something that she’d struggled with previously.

“We were delighted to be asked by TfL to provide work experience to the participants to the programme. The feedback from participants and their work placement managers was overwhelmingly positive.  As an employer we found it to be a successful, hands-on scheme through which to inspire and engage new talent for the engineering and transportation sector and to remove barriers to entering the workplace,” said Dave Hooper, Siemens Programme Director, Thameslink.

Isabelle was supported during her placement with travel and lunch costs and Siemens adapted her working patterns so that she could meet her children after school. She made such an impression on her manager and team that they extended her placement to four weeks.

In 2017, Isabelle successfully applied for a permanent job as a receptionist and administrator for Siemens. She said: “I was thrilled to get the job with Siemens and I really appreciate the help and support they’ve given me. It’s great that See Potential is raising the awareness of the challenges that single parents can face when trying to get a job.”

Isabelle offers the following advice to others in her situation: “Be yourself. Be professional, but let your personality shine through. As much as you want to give up, don’t! Keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities and keep an open mind.”

Siemens is supporting the government-led See Potential campaign. This encourages employers to recognise the benefits of recruiting people from all kinds of backgrounds. These include single parents, care leavers, ex-offenders and some military veterans.

Backed by more than 100 employers, the campaign showcases the talents and business benefits of hiring people from different groups.