Bridging the Skills Gap in Engineering

COLLEGE lecturers are successfully transferring skills honed in industry to help train the next generation of engineers as the country tackles a recruit shortage estimated at 186,000.

A team of engineers at Darlington College have swapped the shop floor for the classroom and have already pushed up results by almost five per cent above the national average.

The team, comprising Rob Elliott, Dawn Rowell, Steve Wilson, Jason Batey, John McCallum and Martin Blackwell, have worked in a wide range of industry including oil, gas, sub-sea, automotive, train manufacturing, military armour, fixed wing aircraft and helicopters, electrical and electronics engineering and 3D printing.

They are now lecturing in engineering helping students gain Extended Diplomas to access higher education, apprenticeships and employment.

John said: “This is putting our students at a huge advantage as they are benefitting from the latest industry knowledge which is relevant to the roles they will be taking.”

Rob added: “We are also successfully piloting the T-Level extended industrial placement initiative offering students up to 45 day’s experience with employers. It is great to have some of those placements progressing on to apprenticeships and the experience is always a valuable addition to the students’ CV.

Darlington College Curriculum Manager, Alan Jones said it was vital to target the growing skills gap, particularly in fabrication and welding, exacerbated by an ageing and retiring workforce.

“We achieved very strong recruitment figures, with upward trends in applications in line with the demand from industry in the North East”.” he said. “The perception is that manufacturing has been written off and hand skills have become scarce– but it is very much alive and thriving.”

Level 3 Engineering student Eleesha Larkin, 17, of Darlington, said: “It is so useful that our lecturers have such in depth knowledge of the subject which they can pass on to us.”

Alex Lockwood, 18, of Kirkby Malzeard, near Ripon, combines his college studies with working for Aquarius Railroad Technology, of Mickley, a company which converts Land Rover Defenders to run on rails to inspect and service railway track.

He said: “The course has been great for me. I secured work experience which led to being taken on for the summer, then I was offered an Industry Placement and I’m hoping it may lead to an apprenticeship.”


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