A common complaint from manufacturers is that schools do not do enough to promote careers in industry. Schoolchildren think manufacturing does not provide an attractive career for them, runs the argument. The Smallpeice Trust is a charitable organisation dedicated to altering this.
It was set up in 1966 by engineer and inventor Dr Crosby Smallpeice, who invested £1.6m in a training centre for engineers in the Midlands. The centre still provides the base for the trust’s work of promoting engineering careers to children and older students. It runs residential courses for school children and so-called `gap year’ schemes for university students.
The gap year course places 30 or 40 students with companies across Europe. The aim is to teach them about working practices in industry, and improve their language skills.
About 100 pupils aged 13-14 attend the annual residential course for school children at the training centre. Angela Lilley, the trust’s corporate liaison officer, admits this is only scratching the surface. `I don’t know what the solution is,’ she says. `But schools need to get in contact with local industry to get engineers in.’
The trust acts as a link with industry to attract engineers to visit schools. `Teachers and students think the best way to promote engineering is to have an engineer visit, but the best ones to do the visiting are the young ones,’ says Lilley. `But they are so busy they are not always easy to get. Industry has to give them the time to support this work.’
The Smallpeice Trust’s supporters include Nokia, Ford and GCHQ. German manufacturer Auto Door Systems also takes students on the gap-year scheme.
The trust’s next project is a spring conference on the transport sector. It is also considering how to best use its new, larger premises in Leamington Spa.
Smallpeice’s legacy has attracted thousands of young people into industry. As manufacturing becomes a high-skill sector, its work is set to become increasingly valuable.
The Smallpeice Trust can be contacted on 01926 333200 or www.smallpeicetrust.org