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Department of Engineering

Local teenagers bridge the gap to a career in industry

Local teenagers bridge the gap to a career in industry

Students from six Fenland schools are taking part in a programme designed to encourage students interested in engineering and manufacturing. 

It’s about encouraging all young people to fulfil their potential and pursue a rewarding career path.

Matt Diston, Widening Participation Project Coordinator

The University's annual Fenland Engineering Taster Events are hosted by Metalcraft , a cutting-edge manufacturer and major employer in Chatteris, Cambridgeshire.

Metalcraft makes equipment for international clients in energy, medical science and other industries – one of its most high-profile projects was at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland.

Back in Chatteris, the company also offers a traditional engineering apprenticeship, drawing most of its recruits from local schools. The University of Cambridge has been working with the firm to inspire and encourage students in local schools for several years.

In the first quarter of 2016, The Fenland Engineering Taster programme engaged 92 Year-10 students from six schools: Neale Wade Academy (March), Cromwell Community College (Chatteris), Ely College, Witchford Village College, Thomas Clarkson Academy (Wisbech) and Sir Harry Smith Community College (Whittlesey).

​The full-day events comprise a bridge-building challenge overseen by outreach teams from the University and its Engineering Department, followed by a tour around Metalcraft’s workshops with the firm’s Apprentice Coordinator, Neil Kirby.

Participants are asked to build a bridge across a 1m gap using only paper, key rings and steel nuts and bolts. After receiving a crash course in bridge design, each team competes to build the bridge with the highest strength-to-mass ratio. Each team’s bridge is tested to breaking point by hanging masses to it.

In late February, it was the turn of eleven students from Thomas Clarkson Academy. Among them, Dylan soon took responsibility for quality control, telling his teammates: “Make sure the paper is rolled tight or it won’t be strong enough”. Across the room, James concluded: “This is much better than double maths”.

Metalcraft’s Neil Kirby comments: “This programme not only introduces Year 10s to engineering basics, it also gets them thinking about what they want to do when they leave school. Metalcraft stays in contact with local schools all year round and it’s great to be working with Cambridge University to encourage local teenagers to aim high.”

Matt Diston, Widening Participation Project Coordinator at Cambridge University says: “This is one of the really successful aspiration-raising projects run by the University in the region and we are committed to doing even more. Our work isn’t just about inspiring students to apply to top universities, it’s about encouraging all young people to fulfil their potential and pursue a rewarding career path.”

The Fenland Engineering Taster Events are run as part of the University’s Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Schools Outreach Group (CAPSOG).

In 2015, members of the group arranged over 51,000 interactions with students from 134 local primary and secondary schools to give students potentially life-changing educational opportunities.

CAPSOG’s members include the Department of Engineering, the University’s eight Museums and Botanic Garden, the Cavendish Laboratory, the Millennium Mathematics Project, St Catharine’s College and several other Offices.

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