Pupils from Rugby Free engage with robotics task - Left Joshua Poolton, Comau UK; fourth from left Assistant Head Phil Kerry; fifth from left, pupil, Tom Edwards.jpg

Secondary school pupils from across Warwickshire recently had the opportunity to learn all about the variety of jobs in the construction, engineering and rail industry at an educational taster day at Rugby College on 28 March.

The college, which is part of the multi-site educational group WCG, organised the event in partnership with the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce and the National College for High Speed Rail. The aim was to give youngsters from Rugby and Coventry an introduction to the range of careers available, and hear from industry experts and employers in these sectors.

The day started with welcome presentations from Group Vice Principal for Curriculum at WCG, Neil Coker, who is also Director of Rugby College, along with Phil Warwick, from the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), Eva Fryc from STEM Learning UK, and Neil Eagers from the National Skills Academy.

Phil Warwick from the CITB told his audience that construction was “not all about building” and that there was much more to the construction industry than the stereotypical building site labourer role. He said that over the next five years it was estimated that 168,500 construction jobs will be created in the UK and the sector offered long term local career prospects for a skilled workforce.

Following on from that, students from Avon Valley, Rugby Free, Westwood and Blue Coat schools participated in interactive workshops and demonstrations hosted by Comau, BAM Construction, HS2, Balfour Beatty Vinci, Laing Murphy, Effiage Kier and many more. These showcased a variety of technologies used in the workplace including virtual reality, robotics and drone technology. The visitors also went on a tour of the college and got the opportunity to engage with some of the region’s employers such as Deeley Construction, Colas Rail, Impact Ariel and Stepnell in the main exhibitor hub space.

Phil Kerry, assistant head at Rugby Free School, came along with 13 Year eight pupils. He said: “It’s been a really interesting day for pupils with the hands-on nature of the workshops and problem-solving tasks. I’ve also learnt a lot and had my eyes opened to the wide variety of local jobs available in these sectors. It has also been good to engage with our local college so we look forward to retaining the link.”

Twelve-year-old Tom Edwards from Rugby Free added: “I’ve seen how robotics and computing can be used to make tasks simpler in construction using technologies such as virtual reality. I particularly liked seeing how drones are used in engineering projects to do surveys.It’s been a great day and has shown me that there are thousands of jobs available in these areas.”  

A report last year by Engineering UK stated that there is an annual demand for 124,000 engineers and technicians with core engineering skills across the economy. There is also an additional requirement for 79,000 “related” roles requiring a mixed application of engineering knowledge alongside other skill sets. 

College Director for Rugby, Neil Coker said: “The aim of the day was to challenge the perceptions that young people might have regarding careers within these industries and get them to think differently about STEM (science, technology, engineering & maths) subjects.

“The engineering sector is of vital importance to the UK, yet there is a huge shortfall in skilled workers and a demand for people with engineering skills within the region. The key to addressing the future demand for engineers is encouraging young people to study STEM subjects and pursue the engineering and construction-related qualifications that we offer here at Rugby.”

Account Manager Robotics UK & Ireland at Comau, George Thompson, said: “We were pleased to take part in the day and bring our interactive activity e.DO Experience, designed to test problem solving as well as show the participants how robotics work.

“It was encouraging to see how these young adults evaluated, approached and solved each task with only basic training and guidance. Our overall goal was to show that automation engineering involves a vast array of skills and these young people already have the fundamental building blocks in place to build on. If we managed to inspire some of them to enter into engineering it will have been a successful event!”

Louise Bennett, chief executive of Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “It is absolutely vital that we, as businesses, do everything we can to support young people in understanding the world of work and giving them as much information on the opportunities available in our local economy.Companies across Coventry and Warwickshire are ready to offer their experience and expertise to our young people because they will be our future workforce.”  

Rugby College offers a range of full-time courses in a wide variety of subjects. Anyone interested can come to an open evening on Monday 8 April, 5.30-8pm.

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