BFPA takes the initiative in helping to address the Skills shortages in our Fluid Power sector

20 Sep 2017

Chris Buxton, Director & CEO of the British Fluid Power Association, reports on a new initiative to engage further with Primary & Secondary Engineer in working to encourage young people to develop a career in the Fluid Power Sector.

I would be a rich man if I had a pound for every time that I have told by BFPA members of the challenges that they face in recruiting the right staff for their businesses! Regular readers of this e-publication will recall previous articles on Primary & Secondary Engineer – an initiative to by-pass the politicians and the endless, over-complicated government educational projects by engaging directly with children as young as six to 18 in helping them to consider complex but exciting engineering concepts. In the last issue, BFPA’s Sarah Gardner and Webtec MD Martin Cuthbert reported on the impact of the ‘Fluid Power Challenge‘, a Primary & Secondary Engineer competition designed specifically for the Fluid Power sector.

Those who are still not familiar with this organisation should know that Primary & Secondary Engineer have, over the past 12 years, created an engineering curriculum that spans Early Years, Primary, Secondary and Further Education institutions. Its core aims include; the development of children and young people through engagement with engineering, the promotion of engineering careers for pupils through inspiring programmes and competitions, the development of engineering skills for teachers and practitioners as a sustainable model and working to address the gender imbalance in science and engineering.

Their work bridges the gap between industry and education, has won accolades including successive Red Rose Award’s for ‘Skills and Training Provider of the year’, Burnley Councils’ Chief Executives’ Award for bringing ‘Education and Industry together’ and featured in the Scottish Government’s Manufacturing Future for Scotland and the Engineering Skills Investment Plan. The programme reach extends to parents, carers and the wider community through public exhibitions of children and pupils’ ideas in relation to engineering in regions across the UK.   The aim of the organisation is to provide a Universe of Engineering for schools through which all children can reach their potential. Teacher training courses, masters level research, skills, competencies, project based learning, competitions, exhibitions, links to engineers (this might be where your company could assist?) all help to ensure deep learning, impact and career awareness. It is a not-for-profit organisation supported by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Scottish Engineering, AMS Neve and Babcock International.

On 28th February Jon Hilton, the President of the IMechE, was in Huddersfield visiting Cummins Turbo Technologies, Huddersfield University and Kirklees College.

A highlight of Jon’s visit was spending time with a group of teachers who were engaged in the Secondary Engineer, Fluid Power Challenge training taking place at the College. This programme, which is supported by the IMechE, gives teachers the confidence and skills to deliver simple hydraulic projects to their pupils employing basic engineering principles and concepts, using readily available materials.

Susan Scurlock, Chief Executive of Primary Engineer and Regional Director Kevin Burke guided Jon through the session, and Susan took the opportunity to brief Jon on the Institution of Primary Engineers, and present him with a certificate of honorary membership.

Jon was certainly impressed by what he saw and by the very positive feedback that he received from the participating school staff.  He agreed that this was a unique programme, and a vital contribution to the school engineering curriculum, that he wholeheartedly supported.

So how can you become involved?

The work of Primary & Secondary Engineer in schools, with teachers, pupils, the ripple effect to parents and the wider community could not happen without the support and funding of companies, councils and individuals.   Each ‘cluster’ taking part in the programme requires a critical mass of approximately seven schools, each at a cost of just £925 per establishment. This relatively small sum of money funds the training of four teachers per school in how to deliver the required training, a starter-kit of tools and materials and access to the virtual learning environment with interactive white boards and a library of downloadable information for use in the classroom. Not a penny is wasted. It also provides an on-going relationship between the school and the sponsoring company – at a local level! This regional influence enables sponsoring companies to have an immediate impact upon their local environment and locality. Whilst the politicians argue over their targets and the names of the latest permutation of ‘vote grabbing’ qualifications, this initiative enables sponsoring companies to have a direct and immediate impact upon what could be their own pipeline of future employees!

BFPA is fully engaged.

Apart from encouraging its members all over the UK to engage with this outstanding initiative, BFPA has demonstrated our commitment by sponsoring three schools to compliment four others (three of which were sponsored by BFPA member Webtec), in ‘kicking –off a Cambridge-based cluster. Cambridge Hydraulics are the seventh sponsor.

Over the coming months, BFPA and the team at Secondary Engineer are going to be undertaking a mapping exercise with BFPA members to see where there may be opportunities for you as members to engage with schools in your local area. A dedicated flyer (below) has also been developed for this worthy promotional campaign.

In my discussions with UK Government they been happy to admit that these days, “God helps those who help themselves” and I can only encourage members to take this excellent opportunity to influence the educational and employee pipeline ‘at-source.’ Such opportunities are few and far between. Let’s not let this one pass!

Chris Buxton
Director and CEO of the British Fluid Power Association (BFPA)

Members planning to attend the forthcoming BFPA Dinner & Dance at the Imperial War Museum in Manchester on the 3rd of November will also have an opportunity to meet and speak with Susan Scurlock of Primary & Secondary Engineer as they will be the beneficiaries of the charity raffle.