A manufacturer of engine components based in South Wales has opened its doors to local secondary school pupils to give them a taste of what it is like to work in a high-volume, fast-paced automotive manufacturing environment.
The open days took place over two days (27–28 June 2012) at the Schaeffler UK plant in Llanelli. A total of 53 Year 10 and Year 11 pupils (14–16 year olds) from 10 local schools took part. Participating schools were Coedcae, Dyffryn Taf, Glan y Mor, Maes yr Yrfa, Pontarddulais, Queen Elizabeth High School, St John Lloyds, Tregib, Ysgol y Gwendraeth and Ysgol y Strade.
These open days are part of the UK Government’s See Inside Manufacturing Initiative (SIM), a nationwide programme developed in order 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 Initiative is supported by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), with major UK-based automotive vehicle manufacturers taking part in the open days, including Aston Martin, BMW, Honda, Jaguar Land Rover, Toyota Motor Manufacturing UK and Vauxhall.
Speaking on behalf of UK automotive, Paul Everitt, Chief Executive at SMMT, says: “Despite the economic challenges, these are exciting times for everyone in the UK automotive sector. Our industry continues to attract high levels of international investment, maintaining the country’s position right at the heart of global low-carbon technology innovation. With investment, government support and a wealth of new innovative products set to be built here, there’s never been a better time to pursue an automotive career.”
Following the success of a similar, one-day event held at the Schaeffler UK plant in November 2011, this year’s event was extended to two full days in order to give pupils more time to see the factory, ask questions, discuss their career plans and to take part in an engineering challenge and team-building exercise.
This year, each open day was split into a morning and afternoon session, with 29 pupils attending on the first day and 24 pupils the following day. On arriving at the plant, pupils and teachers were welcomed by presentations from Schaeffler UK’s Training Officer Donna Williams-Bevan and from the plant’s own engineering apprentices, Jamie Green and Luke Stacey. The pupils and teachers were then given a guided tour of the factory by the apprentices and supervisors.
Schaeffler’s Engineering Challenge
After the tour, pupils were divided into teams in order to compete in Schaeffler’s Engineering Challenge. This involved pupils having to correctly interpret 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.
After lunch, representatives from the local college, Coleg Sir Gar, one of the largest Further Education Colleges in Wales, came to the Schaeffler plant to run a two-hour team building exercise. This involved teams of pupils being asked to design and build a hovercraft and then racing these against each other.
Before departing the plant, pupils and teachers were given an opportunity to ask questions of senior managers and apprentices at the plant in an open, informal environment.
The pupils themselves thought the day was very interesting and rewarding. Feedback questionnaires completed by the pupils stated that the event was “a very worthwhile, fun day”, “well thought out and so interesting to see the facilities and machines and how engine tappets are actually made.” Other statements read: “I would love to work in a company like this”, “I would love a career in manufacturing”, and “the day was packed with information, I learned a lot and the engineering challenge and team building exercise were really enjoyable. When can I start?”
Alex Robinson, Automotive Components Section Manager at The Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT) comments: “Around 43 per cent of those who graduated in 2009 did so with a degree in a STEM subject – but just 1 in 20 of them went to work in manufacturing. See Inside Manufacturing is part of both redressing manufacturing’s image and the reluctance of young people with STEM qualifications to work there. We would like more Tier One and Two automotive suppliers like Schaeffler UK to support the SIM initiative. Schaeffler UK has now held two very successful open days at its Llanelli plant and we thank them for their continued support.”
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 260 people. Schaeffler (UK) Ltd is an autonomous subsidiary of the multi-national German-owned Schaeffler Group.
For more information about Scaeffler, automotive manufacturing and the See Inside Manufacturing Initiative, email .