More than 60 pupils from local secondary schools took part in a See Inside Manufacturing open day event at Schaeffler UK’s automotive engine component manufacturing plant in Llanelli, South Wales.
The event was part of the government’s See Inside Manufacturing Initiative, a nationwide ‘open days’ programme to help improve the image of UK manufacturing to young people, with the objective of attracting the brightest and best talent into a career in manufacturing and engineering. The event at Schaeffler UK was arranged in conjunction with the local college, Coleg Sir Gar, and was facilitated by Schaeffler’s own apprentices and toolmakers.
The open day, which took place on 21st November 2011, was divided into a morning and afternoon session in order to accommodate more children. In the morning session, 30 Year 9 pupils (aged 13-14) attended from three local secondary schools: Amman Valley, St John Lloyds and Bryngwyn. In the afternoon, 32 Year 9 pupils visited the plant from three other schools: Queen Elizabeth High School, Coedcae and Glan y Mor.
On arriving at the plant, pupils and teachers were welcomed by presentations from Plant Director Roger Evans MBE and from Schaeffler UK’s Training Manager Donna Williams-Bevan. The pupils and teachers were then given a guided tour of the factory by Schaeffler apprentices and toolroom staff. This gave pupils an opportunity to see what it would be like to work in a real manufacturing environment.
Pupils were then split into teams in order to compete in an Engineering Challenge. Led by Schaeffler UK’s toolroom technician Gareth Gravell, this challenge involved pupils having to correctly read an engineering drawing before devising a suitable method for assembling an idler hub bearing. The winner was the team that correctly assembled their idler hub in the fastest time.
The Engineering Challenge was followed by a Schaeffler quiz, which tested the pupils’ ability to recall information provided in the Schaeffler presentations. Before departing the plant, lunch with senior managers and apprentices gave pupils the opportunity to ask any further questions in an open, informal environment.
Also in attendance on the day were Alex Robinson, Automotive Components Section Manager at The Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT) and Paul Bullock, Industry Liaison Manager at the Welsh Automotive Forum.
As Alex Robinson commented, “The SMMT, in accordance with the Automotive Council, has aimed to build on local activities already undertaken by individual companies to coordinate a nationwide See Inside Manufacturing programme for young people considering their future career options. I believe Schaeffler’s event is a credit to the initiative and has undoubtedly left a positive impression on many of the school children who visited.”
“It is especially pleasing to see the automotive sector taking a lead on this activity in 2011, with government keen to extend the initiative across other manufacturing sectors in 2012. Schaeffler’s event will hopefully serve as a tool to spark off an interest amongst local school children in engineering and dispel the outdated attitudes towards a career in the profession.”
Paul Bullock of the Welsh Automotive Forum agreed: “If the UK is to plug the current skills gap in UK manufacturing and engineering, it is critical that we attract more young people, both boys and girls, into a career in manufacturing. It was therefore particularly pleasing to see as many girls attending the Schaeffler open day as there were boys. Interestingly, three of the four winning teams on the Engineering Challenges comprised all-girl members.”
Schaeffler UK’s Llanelli plant is now the lead Schaeffler production plant in Europe for mechanical tappets. Established in 1955, the factory manufactures high precision engine components for the automotive market and currently employs 250 people. Schaeffler (UK) Ltd is an autonomous subsidiary of the multi-national German-owned Schaeffler Group.
Roger Evans MBE, Plant Director at Schaeffler UK commented, “The open day has been a tremendous success for everyone involved and we look forward to holding similar events in the future. Giving school children the opportunity to visit a real manufacturing plant, to ask questions of apprentices working there and to see what it’s really like working with the latest modern machinery in a dynamic, fast-moving manufacturing environment is essential if we are to attract more young people into a future career in this industry.”