Sheffield Engineering Centre

Students aged 14-16 study for engineering qualifications at Sheffield Engineering Centre, in the middle of the city’s engineering heartland.

Sheffield Engineering Centre provides students with state-of-the-art equipment, industry standard technology and access to leading experts from the sector. Young people who access the site can enjoy interactive teaching on varying elements of engineering including design, construction and electronics. The centre features four fully operational workshops and three classrooms, complete with desktop computers and interactive projector screens. Courses delivered in the centre include NVQs, Young Apprenticeships and the Engineering Diploma.

Students learn about the different aspects of the sector, including its history and key projects. Classes, both in the workshops and in the classroom, are led by industry experts who have decades of experience working in engineering. Industry partners, such as Boeing and Unite, the national union, also regularly visit the centre to offer workshop or classroom sessions to students, highlighting key engineering practices. The Engineering Diploma for example features extensive levels of teaching, hands-on workshops and talks.

Neil Hughes has been in the engineering sector for 20 years and teaches at the Engineering Centre. He says, “It’s fantastic to work closely with the schools and partners to deliver a high standard of teaching to the students. We have received feedback from people within the industry on how impressed they are by the extremely high standard of learning.

“The students don’t learn skills that are exclusively useful for the engineering sector; they learn about employee responsibility, task management, time keeping, following instructions and respecting authority. These are skills and experiences that are fully transferrable into other working environments and that is one of the key advantages of the Engineering Diploma.”

Jonathan Faulkner, aged 14 from Bradfield, is a student studying the Engineering Diploma. He said: "I started the Diploma in September 2008 and I’m so glad I chose this course. I like the design aspect, particularly the sketching of ideas. On a recent project I’ve been designing aircraft seats for Boeing by looking at how we can improve existing seating designs. I started by sketching ideas, then used Computer Aided Design software and ergonomics before starting to produce an actual model of the seat. To actually think that my designs might end up in a Boeing aircraft is amazing. Sheffield is really lucky to be able to offer this course to young people who are interested in engineering. I’m hoping to go on and study the Advanced Diploma in Engineering after this”.

Wendy Miller, who also teaches at the centre, added, “The success of the centre has a lot to do with the fact that all the students who attend are here because they have chosen to do the Diploma. The centre is benefitting from having the students here."

Students who visit the Engineering Centre have the opportunity to meet face-to-face with industry representatives who are partners of the centre. One such partner is Unite the Union – the largest union in the UK which includes all sectors notably manufacturing, technical, finance, transport, energy and health but specifically the skilled engineering trades which exist in and around Sheffield.

Martin Redgrave is the Regional Learning Organiser with Unite and has been meeting with groups of students at the Engineering Centre. He says, “We are working with the team in the centre to ensure the employment rights section of the Diploma provides a clear understanding of the responsibilities of both employers and employees.

“It is important that young people who want to move into the industry have a clear understanding of what is involved at every level of engineering. This includes the practical hands on education but also the workplace situations they’ll surely encounter, upon progression into the real working environment.

“The employment rights and responsibilities strand of the Diploma is not exclusive to engineering and can be delivered across the range of Diploma subjects. I think that’s one of the advantages of the Diplomas – they aren’t limited to just one sector.”