Algram Group Ltd and Coombe Dean School working together to inspire young engineers

27th March, 2017

Algram Group Ltd and Coombe Dean School working together to inspire young engineers

Coombe Dean science teacher, Andy Emerson gave up the day job to spend a week with plastics components and assemblies company Algram Group Ltd, as part of the ‘futureworks’ programme.


Futureworks is run in Plymouth by the Plymouth Manufacturers’ Group (PMG) and is part of the Plymouth and South West Peninsula City Deal. It was set up to help challenge stereotypical misconceptions young people tend to have about working in the manufacturing and engineering sector.


Secretary of Plymouth Manufacturers’ Group, Steve Gerry said: “We know teachers are capable of strongly influencing a young person’s choice of career direction and so for PMG, using futureworks to bring local schools and businesses together was a logical step.“


Local firms are taking individual teachers often from a STEM background (Science, Technology Engineering & Maths) and giving them a week’s exposure to working in a modern-day manufacturing and engineering facility.


Because of what they see and learn through the week, teachers become strong advocates for the sector and PMG expects that this will have an enduring effect both on them and critically, the pupils they then teach.


Andy’s period of work experience took place during a school holiday, which is unusual and not something that every teacher would necessarily be prepared to undertake. Normally, schools need to find supply cover for the teacher who is out on secondment. To help offset this additional cost, the PMG through the Peninsula City Deal make a donation, which is given direct to the school for them to decide how best to use.


Algram designed a work experience programme for Andy that took him through the company’s production line as well as providing an overview of the whole company operation.


Andy began his working career in the chemical industry so wasn’t new to the factory floor. What he wasn’t so prepared for was just how much things have changed since he became a teacher.


Andy said: “I’ve been a science teacher for twelve years and in that time I’ve heard all the misconceptions that students have about working in a factory or careers in industry.


“Before I started, I asked my tutor groups what they thought about working in industry. Invariably they came out with the same things – its dirty, noisy and repetitive. The reality couldn’t be more different - the factory floor is immaculate and the whole process is extremely skilled. It has been an eye-opening experience.


“During my week at Algram, I was shown every aspect of the company’s operations from health and safety and human resources right through to injection moulding, tool setting, robotics, computer aided design and assembly. I met managers, team leaders and operators, some having joined the company as young apprentices. One in particular had worked his way up into a leadership role, while continuing at college working through his NVQ qualifications.


“One thing that really stood out was how highly skilled everyone was in each trade, it was really impressive. Everyone working there had a range of skills that could take them around the world if they wanted. It’s too easy to overlook the opportunities on offer to students who choose to take the vocational route rather pursue academic subjects.


“Ideally I’d want to see our students able to go into companies like Algram on work placements so they can find out for themselves what’s on offer. That’s what would have the most impact on them.


“I’m now in a really strong position to talk to my tutor groups about engineering and what doors it can open for them, as well as the transferable skills they can learn - particularly for those whose strengths lay in the more vocational subjects. I’m also looking forward to busting a few of those misconceptions and encouraging them to think differently about their futures.


“As a school, we’ve invited Algram to take part in our Employability Fair, so they can talk to our students and their parents about engineering and the opportunities for good careers and career progression they present.


“I would love to see this as the beginning of a long lasting partnership between Coombe Dean and Algram.”


Catherine Harris, Managing Director of Algram Group Ltd said she was very pleased with Andy’s positive comments about his experience during his week at Algram, and the fact that he will be able to share his new-found knowledge with his students and expel the adverse myths surrounding the manufacturing industry.


Catherine stated: “We are delighted to be given this is exciting opportunity to work with a local school in order to promote manufacturing and engineering as a genuinely rewarding and diverse career choice for the young talent of the future.


“We have been running a very successful Apprenticeship Scheme at Algram, which has produced some excellent engineering staff who are making significant contributions to the business.  By employing apprentices and other young people, we can ‘home grow’ our own talent to help develop the specialist skills we need to keep pace with the latest technology and working practices in our sector.  It is therefore crucial for us to continue to encourage young people into manufacturing and engineering in order to move the business forward and achieve its long term objectives and sustain a competitive advantage within the global manufacturing industry sector.”


Algram have been actively supporting work experience placements for local students over the years and will to continue this arrangement with Coombe Dean pupils to provide them with an insight into the industry.


Catherine continued: “We would also like to offer Andy the opportunity to visit Algram with his students to have a tour of our facilities which may assist him with bringing manufacturing to life.” 


Across the south west, the manufacturing, marine and engineering sectors provide careers and apprenticeships that are more rewarding and better paid.


Futureworks is a £250,000 programme that aims to challenge many of the misconceptions surrounding manufacturing and engineering and encourage young people to look again at the advantages taking STEM subjects can give them.


Working with local companies and their neighbouring schools, the scheme provides opportunities for young people to see how STEM subjects prepare them for the working world in their area and beyond – from design to manufacture and including site visits, teacher opportunities and a range of other challenges and activities.


Funded through the Plymouth and South West Peninsula City Deal, five partner organisations will reach 10,000 young people and 10,000 employers before the project completes in May 2017. Partners include the Cornwall Manufacturers Group, Cornwall Marine Network, North Devon +, Plymouth Manufacturers’ Group and the Torbay Development Agency.