With many internships and placements being delayed or cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak, Made Smarter – a national movement helping SME manufacturers in the North West to adopt digital technologies – is bucking the trend.
Undergraduates, master’s and PhD students, and graduates from any UK university are being offered paid work experience and a golden opportunity to gain valuable hands-on practical experience, a taste of a potential career path, and a foot in the door of a forward-thinking company or industry.
Students are paid £5,760 for the 480-hour internships, which can be carried out full-time over three months or part-time to fit around their lectures and course work.
Interns are already playing a vital role in manufacturing businesses across the North West, working on live projects ranging from implementing new hardware or software, to developing a digital road map and strategy to support their digital transformation.
SME manufacturers tapping into that tech talent are benefiting from the fresh insight of a digital native to help them adopt technological tools that result in a raft of benefits, including increased revenue growth, reduced production time, and produce the data and insight for new product and market development.
Made Smarter’s digital technology internship programme has already resulted in a number of students securing permanent jobs.
Luke Hickson, a master’s postgraduate studying Industrial Digitalisation at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU), secured a job as design and development engineer following a successful internship at Fabricon Design, an Ashton-Under-Lyne-based business which uses advanced manufacturing methods to produce innovative plastics, aluminium and steel component designs.
Luke, 22, who is originally from Middlesbrough, said: “Ever since I was young, I’ve had ambitions to become an engineer. This was my first experience of an actual manufacturing facility and was just what I hoped it would be.
“The placement was focussed on CAD design, 3D printing and product development.
“Fabricon gave me the freedom to learn and apply my design skills, while taking me through the ropes of learning all the functions of their operation.
“I have been able to incorporate some of my experiences as proof points in my academic work, and ultimately secure a job.”
Mark Bushdyhan, managing director of Fabricon Design, said Luke proved to be a great addition to our business.
“Luke is an incredibly fast learner, who takes direction well and can act on his own initiative,” he said. “His suggestions have proven invaluable and we are incredibly thankful for all his help as part of the Fabricon team.”
Brett Turner, a recent master’s postgraduate in Industrial Digitalisation at Manchester Metropolitan University, used his internship as a platform to start his career.
With his academic expertise in 3D printing, he was matched with Lowlife Products, a manufacturer of aftermarket elevating roofs and furniture for leisure vehicles.
The Macclesfield-based SME retrofits 200 vans each year with its Stealth roof design and wanted to adopt 3D laser scanning technology to develop new products.
Brett said: “The internship experience was incredibly valuable simply because I had the chance to see how a manufacturing SME works from the inside. Up until the end of my master’s degree, everything had been theoretical. I’d never had the opportunity to go out on-site and see how things were run in real life. It provided invaluable insight.”
Brett said the real-life manufacturing experience at Lowlife Products helped him secure a job.
“My digital technology internship placement through Made Smarter proved to be a crucial stepping- stone into employment for me,” he said. “I honestly wouldn’t be where I am today without it! It really was a great thing to be part of.”
Andy Gosling, director of Lowlife Products, said Brett was able to support the delivery of a technology project to use of CAD systems and 3D-scanning systems to reverse-engineer components in order to create new parts.
“While we were able to teach him a lot about the real practices of manufacturing and engineering, he was able bring a fresh perspective and showed great initiative during a project to manufacture components from moulds by using his contacts at the university to produce vital parts at a significantly lower cost,” Andy said. “From an SME’s perspective, those sort of contacts and savings are crucial to the business.”
Alex Taylor, a recent master’s graduate in Intelligence Systems from De Montfort University Leicester is hoping to secure a job after impressing at Kendal Nutricare, based in Cumbria, a manufacturer of nutrition products including infant formulas and baby cereals.
He was able to apply his knowledge of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning to his internship project work.
Alex, 22, who is originally from Kendal, said: “The biggest benefit to me was getting real first-hand work experience outside of the classroom.
“I was able to apply my skills and knowledge to a variety of projects and help the business achieve real results which was hugely satisfying. I really feel like a valued member of the team.
“So often internships require a significant sacrifice from a student or post graduate where you are working effectively for free to get that experience on your CV. With Made Smarter you get paid, which really take the pressure off and feels much more like a real job.”
Grant Remington, Projects and Contracts Manager at Kendal Nutricare, said the digital technology intern programme offered the business the opportunity to trial and test the benefits of introducing the new role of data analyst into the company.
He said: “Over the years we have invested in leading edge machinery as part of our digitalisation journey. We knew there was a lot of valuable data coming out of our processes but didn’t have the time or expertise to capture and analyse it.
“Alex has been a great asset to Kendal Nutricare, collating our onsite data, analysing and highlighting any data spikes we have accrued enabling the correct departments to rectify ongoing issue.
“His work has highlighted bottlenecks which are causing production downtime and resulted in immediate opportunities to reduce our energy bills.
“It has certainly proved a business case for a full-time analyst.”
Get onboard with Made Smarter
Donna Edwards, programme director for Made Smarter, is urging students or graduates to take advantage of the wealth of small and medium-sized businesses looking to take on digital technology interns.
She said: “It has been fantastic to see so many talented students and graduates helping to realise the technology ambitions of many of the North West’s SME manufacturers.
“It’s a win-win for the interns and manufacturers. Students and graduates gain industry knowledge, transferable skills and real-life experience, while being paid the national living wage, and businesses can benefit from a fully funded digital native to help them to understand how new technology can transform production.
“Internships and work placements are a vital tool for students making that transition from university to employment.
“The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a significant reduction in the number of opportunities, and a lot of uncertainty as to what will be available in the future.
“Made Smarter has been successful in linking digital technology interns to manufacturers all over the North West and I would encourage undergraduates in their second and third year, postgraduates at any stage of their course and recent graduates from any UK university to register their interest.”
For more information visit www.madesmarter.uk/digitalinternships