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Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Bright sparks rise to the Challenge!

Engineering: The future for many Northeast children, and a fascinating, well-paid one!

Jo Oliver of Jowheretogo has been checking out prospects for engineering-minded pupils of South Durham Schools:

Monday 11th November was the launch of an exciting project involving 4 schools: Staindrop, Parkside Academy in Willington, St John’s in Bishop Auckland and Spennymoor School.  Around a hundred children and local engineering and manufacturing employers gathered at the new CORE facility at SW Durham Training in Newton Aycliffe to hear about the  project.  The challenge is funded by four Area Action Partnerships (AAPs) from Teesdale, Spennymoor, Bishop Auckland and Shildon Area and the 3 Towns (Crook, Willington and Tow Law) area. A priority in the Durham area is getting our young people into training for real careers they can be proud of.

At the launch John Bignall of the Bignall Group in Shildon debunked  the two great myths about British manufacturing.
The Post Industrial Society : Manufacturing in the UK is far from over. It’s set to grow and we need to re-establish our name as a source of quality goods. We got complacent, but we are turning this around.

There are no jobs in manufacturing, the skills are not needed anymore :  This is no longer true and apprenticeships should not be seen as second class to a university degree. In fact many engineering apprenticeships involve a degree, but with real, transferable skills.

Jeremy Cannon of South West Durham Training and Darren Race, MD of E4 Learning Solutions spoke of the massive range of exciting careers in engineering, and the UK being the home of the world’s best innovators.

Kirsty Haden, recruitment advisor at South West Durham Training spoke of the increasing demand for apprentices in South Durham, and of the growing number of recruits. They’ve never been busier. In the South Durham area engineering and manufacturing are set to be major sources of employment. In the UK it is estimated that in the next few years over 80,000 engineering employees will be needed as people retire.

Councillor Henry Nicholson said “the future of South West Durham and wider communities depends on engineering and manufacturing in small to medium sized businesses” He talked about our hankering for the “golden age” of industry. We are now looking potentially at a new “golden generation” who should be given the right opportunities to shine.

The Schools Enterprise and Engineering Challenge lasts 5 weeks and brings students into contact with employers and the workplace while working on a design and engineering project. The teams of 5-6 pupils will be provided with everything they need to create a remote control racing car. They will have the chance to mould the shell to their own design and modify the vehicle to whatever level they think can win the competition. This is, after all a reflection on the real world, where the best design and marketing win.  Young people love making things and using their own ideas. This is a great opportunity to do just that and make connections with the people who may employ them in years to come.


The students will learn design skills, manufacturing, marketing and web design, everything they need to take a concept to successful completion. The cars will be tested and raced in March 2014 and the design, marketing and web design will be judged by experts in the field. I noticed the large number of girls present at the launch. Northeast business is keen to get more women in engineering, and there is a marked increase in the number of female entrants on the challenge on last year. 




Mentors from local businesses will pass on their experiences and knowledge from the world of engineering and manufacture. Businesses providing mentors for the project include Sanders The project is a collaboration between South West Durham Training (SWDT) and South Durham Engineering and Manufacturing Forum (SDEMF). SWDT arranges apprenticeships in the manufacturing and engineering sector, and provides training solutions for businesses. South Durham Engineering and Manufacturing Forum (SDEMF) has members from across South Durham and provides business support and opportunities to showcase manufacturing and engineering excellence.

Liam Machan was inspired to go on an apprenticeship after taking part in a previous challenge. He said “ After doing the challenge I almost immediately knew that engineering was the path I wanted to take.” He is now a first year apprentice with Gestamp Tallent on a toolmaking apprenticeship and on the right path for a worthwhile career.

Two other apprentices shared their enthusiasm for the apprenticeship process. Paul Tate took the college to university route, with a valuable year as an apprentice to supplement the skills and knowledge he gained in those institutions. Callum Little is enjoying his apprenticeship and looks forward to furthering his education and finding a satisfying role in engineering, as well as being paid while he learns.

Mentors from local businesses will pass on their experiences and knowledge from the world of engineering and manufacture. Businesses providing mentors for the project include Sanders Associates,  PDM, Vision Systems, Ebac, Livin and Big Energy. Companies involved in manufacturing and engineering are invited to put forward further mentors for this project and get involved. This challenge could find the real bright sparks of the future! 

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