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28. February 2013

First Foundry Graduates for 20 Years

First Foundry Graduates for 20 Years

A unique partnership between the industry, academia and the professional body.

ICME Graduation Dinner 27th February 2013, 6.30pm

The Institute of Cast Metals Engineers is hosting, jointly with Bradford College, a Graduation Dinner for the first students who will graduate from the new Foundation Degree in Casting.  These students who are all employed in the castings industry will be the first students graduating from a casting specific higher education qualification for 20 years and this event represents a major development in the resurgence of the UK industry.

Casting is a fundamental part of the UK’s manufacturing and engineering sector, supplying as it does highly engineered components parts for the automotive, aerospace, oil and gas, energy supply industries and telecommunications.  Indeed there are few, if any industries that do not rely on casting as part of the supply chain for manufacturing. This wide range of product areas are all growing at a global level and most of our production is exported either directly or indirectly.

There are approximately 400 operating foundries in the UK with a combined turnover approaching £2.2bn pa and the industry employs at least 17,000 people producing around 550,000 tonnes of castings per annum.  Globally casting production has returned to pre-2008 levels with 98.6 million tonnes produced during 2011, a 7.5% increase compared with that of 2010.
The foundry industry in the UK has been consolidating for decades, but for the last 10 years the majority of foundries (which are mainly excellent, world class, niche players) have been growing in volume and profitability. The credit crunch resulted in a small decline in production but most of these foundries are now operating at higher levels than ever.

The booming car industry in the UK, the expansion of the commercial aircraft engine sales (the number of commercial airliners in the world is set to double by 2030) and investment in nuclear and renewables, such as wind energy, present a fantastic opportunity.   Similarly, infrastructure projects around the world for energy, water, transport and mining are vital for emerging economies that have the cash to invest now.

With this background of real expansion, new foundries are being built and there are major investments in equipment also taking place.  The skills of technicians, engineers and craftsmen are now needed more than ever and the need for training at all levels has never been greater. Foundry courses around the UK have closed over the years but the castings industry now needs quality national programmes to be both available and accessible to the whole industry.

Through ICME, the castings industry has begun to invest significantly in training and educational programmes, and a prime example of this is the Foundation Degree in Casting which was developed by ICME, with the castings industry and Bradford College, working in partnership.  This unique, new qualification is delivered using distance and blended learning and its success has now led to developments for apprentices with a new Diploma in Casting and plans for a BEng.  The first graduates have managed to combine study with full time work over several years to achieve their qualification. The qualification represents a unique collaboration between the industry, academia and the professional body.

Dr Pam Murrell, ICME Chief Executive says “This graduation dinner is an opportunity for the industry to showcase itself to MPs, Ministers and key decision makers in education and skills development and to demonstrate an industry that is now vibrant, innovative and profitable.   Like much of engineering, the castings industry now needs young apprentices, technicians and engineers to provide the skilled workforce of the future.  This dinner is an opportunity to demonstrate the commitment of the industry to develop these skilled engineers and craft technicians through these educational initiatives.”

Richard SA Brown:  STEM Development Leader and Head of Metallurgy and Materials commented “Working in partnerships is essential to develop ‘fit for purpose’ qualifications which meet the needs and requirements of the industrial sector, retain  academic rigour and embrace the professional accreditation criteria of the  Engineering Council through the UK Specification for Eng Tech, Incorporated and Charted Engineers. The Foundation Degree in Casting Technology is our best undertaking to date and has led to the College developing a BEng (Hons) in Materials Engineering (Casting), with the University of Teesside, which is to be validated in February 2013.”

ICME is the Institute of Cast Metals Engineers and is the professional body for individuals in the castings industry.  It aim is to provide technical information and professional development opportunities to its Members who are drawn from all areas of the castings industry and include  foundry engineers, foundry directors and owners, metallurgists, moulder-coremakers, technicians, patternmakers and methods engineers as well as castings buyers and suppliers to the industry.  The institute has held a Royal Charter since 1921, is licensed by the Engineering Council to provide professional engineering qualifications to its members, and is a UK registered Charity.

Bradford College
Bradford College has been delivering quality education and training for over 175 years.  Each year we deliver hundreds of courses to over 23,000 learners from across the globe. The College is the fourth largest in the country and the largest provider of higher education outside of the university sector in England.  The college has a unique reputation in delivering innovative programmes via distance learning

The Metallurgy and Materials academic staff, within the Programme Area of Engineering have engaged with the casting industry and professional bodies to create both further and higher education qualifications for the cast metal industry. The curriculum developments at Bradford College have supported and led opportunities to study through flexible means such as distance, blended and e-learning which in turn have been linked to an Industrial Mentor Training programme. Furthermore the development of Regional Centres, which are located within casting companies, has enabled the realisation of the Foundation Degree in Casting.

One of the latter success stories in our 20 year ‘journey’ is evidenced  by independent research undertaken by the UK Centre in Materials Education in  2009, Foundation Degree in Metallurgy and Materials (http://www.materials.ac.uk/pub/case-bradford.asp), which provided a comprehensive review of the  strategy  undertaken to achieve recent  developments.

The success of partnership collaborations in developing the Foundation Degree in Casting resulted in an invitation to Pam Murrell and Richard SA Brown to present a paper at the Work Foundry Congress in Mexico in April and May 2012 (http://www.thewfo.com/Page.aspx?pageId=10).
Several countries showed interest in collaboration to further develop our Higher Education Casting qualification.  In September 2012 Pam and Richard were invited to present a further paper to the Slovenian Foundrymen Society at their 52nd International Foundry Conference: www.drustvo-livarjev.si

It is anticipated  that ICME and Bradford College will undertake further projects together, one of which is a Commission on Education and Training supported by World Foundry Organisation:  http://www.thewfo.com/

ICME - Graduation Dinner briefing notes

The Graduation Dinner celebrates the first graduates from a casting specific higher education course for over 20 years.

(There are no Bachelor degrees in Casting available in the UK but the Foundation Degree is the first step towards this).

The industry developed the qualification to its own specification with support from Bradford College.

The castings industry is a key part of manufacturing - it is hard to think of a product that does not involve casting somewhere in the manufacturing process and the industry is growing globally.

It is a traditional industry that dates back many thousands of years but much of the industry is now highly automated with high levels of quality control, environmental management and health and safety, and is producing precision components from knee implants, single crystal turbine blades to components for the automotive and power generation industries. It is the original recycler, turning scrap metal into new components and reusing its sand over and over again.

Indeed it is the only way to make some components such as engine blocks and cylinder heads which have complex internal cavities that cannot be machined.

The industry also relies on craft skills but for a variety of reasons (including competition from overseas leading to a surplus of skilled people) the provision of training declined around 20 years ago.  Many of the industries skilled people are now reaching retirement and the industry needs a new generation of young craftsmen, technicians, metallurgists and engineers - this is now being urgently addressed by the industry and hence the new Foundation Degree, plus a technician level Diploma in Casting launched in 2012. 

The industry needs problem solvers and innovators - casting is a complex process requiring an understanding of the casting process, (how to get the metal into the mould in a controlled way and also be able to extract the casting afterwards), design skills as well as control of the metal quality and the mould integrity.  Metal flow is turbulent and microstructures are still not fully understood.

The Foundation Degree has been developed to provide a means of educating the future technical leaders that the industry needs and has led to a wider resurgence in skills development and apprentices being taken on around the UK by the industry.

Please refer to the press release which gives further background information.

Also the following website provides many examples of casting in everyday use as well as facts and figures about the industry:  www.ukcastings.org

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