A new undergraduate sponsorship scheme aims to entice more students onto electrical and electronic engineering courses and give employers early access to talented people.
The E3 Academy
, which is backed by the Institution of Engineering and Technology, hopes to boost the number studying in areas such as energy conversion, power electronics, machines and generators, electrical drives and control engineering.
Employers signed up to become members of the academy are Siemens Automation and Drives, GE Aviation, Control Techniques, Converteam, Parker SSD and Cummins Generator Technologies.
They now sponsor students who have applied for relevant courses at Nottingham and Newcastle universities, but other major universities including Manchester and Bristol have also expressed an interest in joining the academy.
'As new universities are added, we would like new companies to come on board as well,' said Prof Greg Asher, head of the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Nottingham.
According to Asher, the universities would benefit from attracting more students thanks to the added kudos of having major businesses backing their degrees.
Siemens hopes to take on four or five students this year. Bob Owen, an electrical engineer for the company with experience of the recruitment process, backed the E3 Academy's value to employers.
'From our own experience at Siemens, when you go to universities you are having to do the sell and you are competing against a lot of other companies. It takes a hell of a lot of time and money, and more and more you will find that people already have a job offer — often not in engineering.
'There are better probabilities of taking on students and developing their skills with the academy than without it,' he claimed.
To join the academy companies pay an annual membership of £500 and a further £1,000 per student they take on. The latter cost is put towards activities such as a summer school. Companies pay each student a bursary of £2,500 for each year of study and provide eight weeks of summer vacation training paid at a rate of at least £1,250 a month.
After graduation, if the student takes up a job offer from one of the academy companies, the employer would also be expected to make a significant donation to their tuition fees.
Prof Paul Acarnley, manager of the E3 Academy, claimed the costs of involvement in the programme were competitive with those of other methods of graduate recruitment, such as agencies.
According to Acarnley, the real payback comes from having ongoing involvement with the development of high-quality students.
'A lot of students already have job offers in their final year of study, so the E3 Academy is getting them earlier, and companies can also contribute to their education,' he said.