On a cold, wintery morning in December, I walked into SPP Pumps in Coleford to meet Laura Hurcombe, Head of UK Manufacturing.
I’m a huge advocate for showcasing the fantastic range of businesses and employers we are so lucky to have in the Forest of Dean. Laura kindly agreed to talk to me more about life at SPP Pumps.
SPP Pumps is an excellent example of a local company with great gender diversity. They have many females in senior roles, including Engineering, Quality, Health and Safety, Finance, HR and of course, Laura is Head of UK Manufacturing, responsible for 100 direct reports.
Laura’s journey to SPP Pumps
But Laura’s path into the engineering sector wasn’t exactly smooth sailing. Laura attended Five Acres School and then moved to sixth form at Monmouth. However, Laura wanted to leave school and pursue her career.
She’d always loved making and creating things and enjoyed the satisfaction of doing things with clear output. She knew she wasn’t meant to spend every day behind a desk.
There were four things specifically that steered her into engineering
- In year 10 she won an award from SPP Pumps
- She went to a STEM event at Pershore High School
- She made a clock out of acrylic when Home Economics was combined with Design and Technology at school
- She won a trip to Russia whilst at Five Acres by designing a Hotel in Moscow, that she went to stay in.
Many people tried encouraging Laura to stay in education, but she knew she wanted an apprenticeship.
There are some interesting stories about the real mix of experiences as a female candidate interviewing for apprenticeships in a male-dominated sector. You can talk to Laura about this when you meet her, the good news is it didn’t put her off.
In the end, after interviewing with a number of firms, Laura completed her apprenticeship with Gloucestershire-based engineering firm Renishaw.
It was years later in 2005 when Laura landed a role with SPP Pumps. And it wasn’t her first experience with them. In Year 9 of school, Laura won an award from SPP Pumps, and her Dad had also worked there for many years.
Crafting a great culture
SPP Pumps is dedicated to creating a culture that genuinely supports its employees, which was evident when I walked through the door. Immediately there was a real feeling of warmth; I was made to feel like part of the SPP Pumps family.
Laura’s enthusiasm was evident as she talked about authentic leadership, having previously coined the phrase
“People are important. Its People that make Pumps”
During her time at SPP Pumps, Laura has had the opportunity to work in Quality, Health and Safety and Manufacturing. She has also enjoyed work trips to Japan, Kuala Lumpur and Belgium. SPP Pumps have also sponsored her studies in Quality, Health and Safety and her current Masters degree.
“The world is your oyster at SPP Pumps”, said Laura.
EDI and ESG at SPP Pumps
As we’ve already mentioned, SPP Pumps embodies EDI (Equality, Diversity and Inclusion) and ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance). And this is demonstrated through their work with local schools and the community as a whole.
Rather topically, they sponsor the Christmas lights in Coleford, provide regular donations to both Great Oaks Hospice in Coleford and their local Community Foodbank and in 2019 Laura proudly opened Gloucestershire’s first Innovation Lab located in Coleford library.
At the opening, Laura said
“It was clear to us from an early stage that the vision, the location and the team here at the Lab made it something we simply had to be involved in – a project that delivers access to digital technology, positive, inspirational role models and innovative thinking skills to our community. Who knows, maybe I have already met a future SPP innovative leader in one of the many children who’ve visited the Lab?”
SPP Pumps regularly organise transport for secondary school children to visit the innovation lab and SPP Pumps’ own site. Giving local children an insight into the exciting career options right on their doorstep.
We also talked about how fashion could help attract young people to an engineering firm. After all, it’s not an industry known for its incredible fashion sense. However, I recently attended AccXel’s first anniversary. As part of the celebrations, they hosted a Construction Catwalk to showcase the various in-style clothing options that work in the boardroom and the shop floor.
AccXel is the first construction school in the UK and is also based in the Forest of Dean. Their mission is inspiring talent and training future skills by connecting industry with education.
Opportunities at SPP Pumps
SPP Pumps is a company to consider if you’re considering a career in any aspect of engineering.
In the summer, they will be looking for interns as well as offering graduate and apprenticeship positions.
Sarah started her career in fmcg marketing working as a brand manager on Clover and as an interim manager on Clover (twice) and Quorn. She founded a start-up interim management company in Gloucestershire and that business changed the percentage of women and diverse talent in senior marketing and HR roles. Sarah specialises in attracting, onboarding, developing, engaging and retaining diverse talent into forward thinking businesses to improve productivity, performance and profit. Flexible working and wellbeing play a large part. Since covid-19 wreaked havoc on the job landscape, Sarah has a created an innovative programme to get senior experienced professionals back into work or fine-tune their current role so that it makes happy.