Returning professionals programme
Returning professionals programme


Would you like to be an engineer again? Here’s how to do it.

Gail Tuck joined Perkins as an apprentice 29 years ago. Today, she is a strategic Human Resources consultant supporting Perkins’ engineering and product teams as well as overseeing diversity and inclusion programmes for the Peterborough site.



Among her many responsibilities is the Perkins Returning Professionals Programme, the subject of a recent interview with Powernews.

Q. What, exactly is the Returning Professionals Programme?

A. It’s a relatively new initiative to help engineers who have left the profession for some reason resume their career. There are a lot of reasons someone may have taken a career break.

Perhaps they left to raise a family or care for a loved one. Maybe they decided to travel or fulfil some life goal. Or maybe they just wanted to try working in some other field. People change, situations change, markets change and it really doesn’t matter why they left.

We are convinced that there are probably thousands of trained engineers in the UK who have either decided they want to return to the profession, or who at least are interested in exploring the opportunity to return. In any case, if they want to get back to engineering, the Returning Professionals Programme (RPP) can be the key to making it happen.

Q. Is this something new for Perkins?

A. We launched the RPP in the UK about a year ago in May 2022. It’s patterned on a similar programme Caterpillar launched a bit earlier. As you probably know, Perkins is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Caterpillar, so anyone who is part of Perkins is also part of the global Caterpillar company. Future opportunities may exist there, but our focus in the UK is on the opportunities Perkins has to offer now, either in Peterborough or at other locations around the country.

Q. How does the RPP work?

A. Things change rapidly in engineering, so someone who has been out of the field for a year or two may need to refresh their skills. Once they’re accepted into the programme they will be assigned to a team leader and provided with a ‘buddy’.

We have found that returning candidates often are hesitant to ask their team leader simple, but important, questions like “Where can I find ...., or How do I ...,”. The ‘buddy’ is there to help smooth the transition back into engineering, provide “gentle” guidance and on-the-job training. In our experience the leader and ‘buddy’ system works very well.

It’s a six-month programme. At the end the candidate can decide whether or not they want to continue. If they do, Perkins will look for available placements and may offer a permanent position if a suitable one is found.

Q. What’s the process for becoming an RPP candidate?

A. The selection process begins with an informal interview either with me or a RPP staff member. The goal is to determine where the individual would best fit into the Perkins organisation. There are a lot of engineering disciplines, some are better fits than others and some are more in demand than others.

It depends on the individual and what Perkins opportunities exist at the moment. If the candidate appears to be a good fit, the next step is a formal interview by someone knowledgeable in the chosen discipline or career field.

I know that sounds a bit formalised, but the process really is quite flexible. We are very willing to work with a candidate to accommodate any special needs or circumstances. Perkins is new to them, and they are new to Perkins, so we do whatever we can to make the transition back to engineering as easy as possible.

Q. Are the RPP opportunities limited just to certain engineering fields?

A.  Oh no, there are many places a returning engineer can fit into the Perkins organisation. Let me give you an example.

At the moment there are three RPP candidates working at Peterborough. One of them is a telematics engineer who is now working on engine performance. Her programme has just been extended. Another is working on engineering data analytics, and the third candidate is working in product support.

The RPP is a very broad programme. It covers everything from highly technical engineering specialties to field-facing customer support.

The only limitation is that a candidate has to be on a career break at the moment, and that’s not really a limitation -- it’s the whole purpose of the programme. The RPP exists to help exactly that person resume their career in engineering.

Q. What advice would you give to someone thinking about applying to the RPP?

A. That’s easy. Do it. You have nothing to lose and potentially a lot to gain.

If you’re an engineer at heart, whether by degree or experience, there’s probably a good reason you chose that career once. The RPP offers you a chance to rejoin the profession no matter why you once decided to leave it behind.

I know it’s not completely objective, but I have to say this --- IT’S A GREAT PROGRAMME, AND PERKINS IS A GREAT PLACE TO WORK!

Or, in a somewhat calmer voice, the RPP really is a very positive thing for you and for Perkins.

Q. So, how does someone who wants to get back into engineering get started?

A. The first thing to do is visit the RPP website and click on one of the links to Current Vacancies. That will take you to a Caterpillar website listing job opportunities.

Click on a country, preferably the UK, and see what’s currently available at Perkins. If you see something interesting, contact the RPP and set up an initial interview.

Actually, that’s a good idea even if you don’t see something immediately. Your dream job may not be posted today, but it may be tomorrow. And, if you’re an engineer at heart it’s time to get back in the game anyway.

And, as I said, Perkins is a great place to work and the RPP is a great way to make it happen.

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