30 years ago walking into the East end of Sheffield you could hear the noise of industrial machinery and taste the pollution in the air associated with traditional heavy engineering. Much of what was manufactured could be described as high volume, low tech products. Almost everyone in the city had contact with this area through friends or relatives who worked there.
It was dirty and noisy and by the 1980's an area in decline with a workforce facing the threat of redundancy. This was the Sheffield of the parents of many of our students. Mention engineering and these are the images that spring to mind. Not surprisingly many do not instinctively consider that engineering would be a good choice of career for their children.
However today engineering in Sheffield is very different. Many of the old factories are gone and production of low tech commodities has in many cases been exported to developing countries. In their place are dynamic new companies with a focus on the high tech, low volume and high added value.
Whilst Sheffield remains an important metal centre it is also now the home of the highest density of medical engineering companies in Europe and a place that manufactures components found in 70% of aircraft in the world. In the next 5 years it is estimated that there is a need for 7,000 level three engineers in the region to provide the skilled workforce needed to ensure that this growth can continue.
On the border of Sheffield and Rotherham on the site of the former Orgreave Coke Works is the Advanced Manufacturing Park. This is the home of a number of cutting edge companies including AMRC Boeing. For the last three years the Local Authority's Engineering co-ordinator has held regular meetings with the company to consider how education and industry can work more closely together. Initially this was through a programme of visits for staff and students.
As the relationship developed there have been discussions on bridging the skills gap in South Yorkshire and how to recruit an appropriate workforce. When Sheffield applied to pass through the Gateway for Engineering meetings were held to explain to the company how the diploma could help meet their workforce needs and how to build upon the programme of visits.
It was agreed that a team of teachers drawn from the region would work with Boeing staff to draw up a programme of activity that would incorporate a visit but also lead to work on a related project that would contribute to the delivery of the Engineering Diploma. This also allowed us to tackle an emerging problem with the visits and which was summed up by the managing director of Boeing as "Today they come to Boeing and leave wanting to become engineers, tomorrow they go the the circus and want to be clowns".
All of the Higher level diploma students have now had a visit to Boeing which included a tour of the facility to dispel any myths about engineering but also introduced a project based upon the re-design of aircraft seating which ties into the delivery of Unit 2 of the Higher Level diploma. In 4-6 weeks time students will be visited in school by mentors from Boeing who will look at the initial designs produced by students and give advice and feedback of their ideas.
Using this input, students will then modify and develop their ideas to produce a final design idea that will be presented back at Boeing and displayed as part of an exhibition by diploma students. Boeing has agreed that this programme can run with 100 learners each year for the next three years. It has also been the subject of a presentation to a gathering of 80 local employers and has been used as a model to develop other projects with more employers.
For more information contact Katy Taylor: email firstname.lastname@example.org Telephone: 2296134