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Growing our future engineers

The MTA’s Members Quarterly Meeting (MQM) on 9th October was themed around  “Growing our Future Engineers”  and reflected on the challenges of recruiting, training and retaining young engineers to the manufacturing technologies sector. As with previous MQM’s, the session took the form of a seminar with members given the opportunity to interact via electronic polling and through questions.
The half day event was held at SECO’s UK Headquarters in Alcester and began with a presentation from Steven Gee, Managing Director, Manufacturing Division, Close Brothers Asset Finance, on the “Regional Growth Fund: Benefiting from the Opportunity.” The Division was awarded funding for a £15m programme under RGF in late 2012. RGF is a  £3.2 billion Government funded grant scheme to support private sector investment across the English regions.

Steven Gee described the very encouraging take up of grants under the RGF and how it was proving to be one of the most useful sources of assistance for SMEs. Steven stressed that to qualify and receive a grant via an approved programme a company’s proposed investment had to be incremental (i.e. would not happen without the RGF support) and that it must have a positive effect on employment and growth. He emphasised that the RGF represented a great opportunity for MTA members to leverage from a Government scheme and that RGF funds are expected to be available until 2017.
It was noted in the meeting that there are other programmes available, often on a geographic basis, under RGF and that the MTA has further details and can help identify the programme that might be right for member businesses.

The first presentation on the theme of developing engineering talent  was delivered by Lee Kilgour, Principal at Aston University Engineering Academy (AUEA), one of the new University Technology Colleges. Mr Kilgour focused on the rationale for setting up the UTCs and the developments at AUEA since it was established a year ago.
He drew on recent surveys that highlighted the lack of knowledge students and parents have about the wider opportunities in engineering. He went on to describe the methodology employed at AUEA to introduce students to the engineering disciplines. Focus was given to independent , collaborative and active learning. Contextualised  learning was also an important element introducing student to the workplace through placements and shadowing and the use of business equipment whenever possible.
The second presentation highlighted a member’s experience  and was given by Geoff Lloyd, Managing Director, Heller Machine Tools Ltd. Geoff Lloyd gave an overview of the challenges his company faced in recruiting potential engineers and the solutions Heller Machine Tools Ltd had found to address them. He described the levels of interviews and selection tests that his company deployed and the results of those processes. He described the structure of the four year apprenticeship programme, the emphasis on technical and craft skills and the close relationship with Heller’s training provider Midland Group Training Services.
Members were able to get their views across on a number of questions arising out of the presentations. The session finished with an opportunity for members  to discuss the issues in smaller groups and then present their analysis to the entire meeting. As with previous MQMs these observations and insights will be drawn together to produce a resource for members to draw on when looking at their own businesses.