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XYZ supplies £500,000 training package to foster engineering students future
XYZ supplies £500,000 training package to foster engineering students future
XYZ supplies £500,000 training package to foster engineering students future
XYZ supplies £500,000 training package to foster engineering students future

XYZ supplies £500,000 training package to foster engineering students future

Added to MTDCNC by XYZ Machine Tools on 09 September 2013

Such is the focus on building a successful engineering skill base for the future around the younger generation, there are now 30 prime companies in the local engineering sector plus two universities sponsoring or partnering the recently opened University Technical College (UTC) of Central Bedfordshire.  The target set by the UTC is to provide students between the ages of 14 and 19 with a level of education and work related training in engineering subjects that the sponsoring companies require in order to grow their businesses.

Said Sarah Driscoll, Principal: 'Our strategy is to gear student education towards engineering and specialisation where they will have a useable background and awareness that companies can build on in the disciplines and technical areas primarily based on science, technology, engineering and maths studies.'

She then explained how important it is to have an engineering-led curriculum covering two to four years that is highly focused.  She said: 'To achieve that, students must have access to the most suitable equipment enabling them to develop a true hands-on experience alongside GCSEs.  Then, for students over 16 years old, direct them towards engineering diplomas with A-Level options in business studies, chemistry, physics and mathematics that can lead onto university with the help of a bursary.'

Central to the engineering training area of the UTC is the installation of a complete turnkey education package involving 27 machine tools and associated equipment worth almost £500,000 put together by XYZ Machine Tools of Tiverton in Devon.  In addition to machines, XYZ was charged to supply and install all peripheral equipment the students would need embracing welding sets, toolholders and cutting tools, hand tools and measuring instruments even mats with logos put in front of machines and pertinent shadow tool boards by each machine.

According to Barry Nappin, Head of Department of Engineering: 'Price was not the central issue but against competitive tendering the UTC was highly tuned to only consider equipment that would set students on their way for the real world of manufacturing and engineering from which they could secure their future.'

He gave a prime example of where the XYZ machines fulfilled the bill:  'We have four XYZ ProtoTRAK SMX 3 2000 turret mills.  Depending where the students are in their training schedule, they can operate the ‘very simple to take on board’ ProtoTRAK control or take full advantage of the control’s inbuilt flexibility by manually operating the machine using the mechanical handles.  As a result they can get a real feel for machining, the cutting tool and the job.  That’s such a very important basic from which we can build the level of skill an engineering employer will be seeking.'

A further point he made concerns visibility on the machines when training.  He said: 'You need to see what’s going on which means the guarding around the machine needs to be functional and safe but also to allow the student to have a clear view of the working area.  It also helps us as instructors to have room not to obstruct but to be able to point out to the student things they need to consider and understand.'  He maintains they have found across the range of XYZ machines these have become really important factors in getting the students to appreciate what is happening and not just have them trying to peer through a small glass screen.

He talked about how the projects have developed following the installation of the machines and equipment:  'XYZ has been involved in partnering us and like our sponsor companies has come back to help train the students giving lectures and presentations on machining plus we have had such excellent telephone support.'  Also he maintained: 'With the XYZ showroom and application centre close by at Waltham Abbey, it is easy and convenient to extend training when needed.'

The UTC was opened by HRH The Duke of York in October 2012 with an initial cohort of 42 Post-16 students on board.  HRH is due to return to open the next phase that includes a 1,000 m2 design centre when it is completed at the end of the year.  Since the engineering facility opened the BBC has been in to film and East Anglia News has twice reported on the success of the ever developing training concept.

The facility in Houghton Regis has a catchment area for students within a 10 mile radius.  It covers some 5,000 m2 of newly refurbished accommodation with wall-to-wall facilities incorporating the latest high technology equipment and teams of highly qualified staff in the various areas of discipline.

However, key to its success said Mrs Driscoll is the support from Cranfield University and the University of Bedfordshire which are both working alongside the 30 local engineering companies which include B/E Aerospace UK, SKF, Lockheed Martin, RWDI Anemos, MacDonald Humfrey (Automation), Geomatix Earth Science, Liebherr, Willmot Dixon, Haywood Tyler and Infiniti Red Bull Racing.  She said: 'Not only are these high profile company names acting as sponsors but they are also contributing time to support and set projects, accept students back in their premises and help to set up training programmes around their future engineering needs.'

'It’s a bit like a jigsaw,' remarked Mr Nappin who leads a team of two lecturers and one technician in the engineering school.  'As we train the students, set projects, mark their work, perform interviews and encourage them to move forward you gradually see the pieces coming together to form the whole picture we want to see.'  However, a key element in the training programme is discipline between their hours of 8.30 and 17.00 and they must look professional.  In the engineering school they wear black UTC logo polo shirts and black trousers but have to attend events in suits and ties, the young ladies in white blouses.  

He added: 'This is all part of what we are trying to achieve and to ensure every student will have pride in what they have done.'  He spoke from his own experience as having served a four-year apprenticeship. 'These students have a golden opportunity to learn while being introduced to the latest technology.  However, with the support of high calibre sponsoring companies this will all help to direct them towards what these firms need them to know and most important, to understand.'

XYZ’s package included sets of four installations of ProTURN SLX 1630 CNC lathes, ProtoTRAK SMX 3 2000 variable speed turret mills, XYZ 2000 manual turret mills and XYZ 1330 manual ‘Trainer’ lathes.  In addition, an XYZ 1020 surface grinding machine was installed, four pillar drills, two pedestal grinding units, a bandsaw, a SAR 750 bender and roller and five ESAB welding sets along with a host of associated accessories and tooling items.

As the UTC progresses into its second year, 40 14-year-old students, 60 post A-Level students and 32 students returning for additional training will ramp up the UTC’s activities.  When the Design Centre opens, 24 seats of CADCAM will feature Solid Works and XYZ off-line programming software.  A technical drawing room is also being set up with manual drawing boards.  

To which Mr Nappin concluded: 'It’s the same with the XYZ machine installations; we are able to give the students the feel of basic engineering practice and progress them to a stage they will become useful to an employer.   From there they will have the opportunity to build upon their initial training hopefully, for the rest of their working lives.'

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