The first foundry graduates in the UK for 20 years have been honoured in a move described by skills body Semta as a major development in the resurgence of UK industry.
Will Garret and Chris Jay of Union Electric Steel in Gateshead and Carl Barker of Skipton-based Brooksbank Valves are the first students to graduate from the new Foundation Degree in Casting.
The Institute of Cast Metal Engineers joined forces with Bradford College to develop the qualification to provide a means of educating the future technical leaders that the industry needs.
All three were well established in their jobs so were older learners. Now it is hoped their success will lead to more colleges and universities developing higher education qualifications, with employers, specific to the castings industry.
A special dinner was held in the National Liberal Club in London at the end of February where the graduates were honoured in the presence of Baroness Margaret Wall, who has championed the skills agenda for the past 10 years, and steam engine enthusiast and pop music mogul Pete Waterman, who presented the certificates.
Dr Pam Murrell, ICME Chief Executive said: “I am delighted that we were able to celebrate the achievements of our new graduates in such a splendid setting. Pete Waterman was inspirational to us all and will have encouraged our graduates to continue with their careers in the castings industry as well as giving the other young people in the audience the confidence to continue with their education in this great industry.”
Lynn Tomkins, UK operations director for Semta, who supported the event, said:
“Casting is a fundamental part of the UK’s Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering sector supplying highly engineered components parts for the automotive, aerospace, oil and gas, energy supply industries and telecommunications.
“The booming car industry in the UK, the expansion of commercial aircraft engine sales and investment in nuclear and renewables, such as wind energy, present a fantastic opportunity. This Foundation degree is a small but significant step in the resurgence of UK industry.”
Graduate Will Garrett, director of manufacturing at Union Electric Steel said: “I joined straight from school as an apprentice in the machine shop and have worked for the company for 25 years. It would never have occurred to me at the time that I might end up running the whole of manufacturing. I believe I have been given a unique opportunity at the company to develop my skills and experience in a hands-on environment, while gaining valuable qualifications.”
Chris Jay, manufacturing engineer at Union Electric Steel said of the degree: “The distance learning aspect allowed learning in my own time without needing to take time off work. The course allowed me to refresh and extend the knowledge I gained when completing my HNC as well as making useful industry contacts.”
Carl Barker, quality assurance manager at Brooksbank Valves Ltd said: “The Foundation Degree in Casting Technology has armed me with invaluable knowledge of the foundry process and with the technical information needed when visiting prospective suppliers. This degree is a credit to the industry and should be celebrated.”
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 year.