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“Foundry Education and the role of the ICME”

Monday, 20 February 2017

Branch President Ian Shergold Prof MICME welcomed members and guests to the February branch meeting of the ICME and introduced the speakers for the evening with a slight change from the planned event. The presentation is the current apprenticeships and training available through ICME and the plans for developing this in the future.

Paul Gullick began with a brief history of foundry education in the UK.

By 1933 France and Germany already had schools for educating key men of their foundry industry in management, metallurgy and engineering. The British Foundry School was founded in 1933 with the purpose of providing further education for comparatively mature, employed male students who wished to develop their careers and or their technical knowledge. The first students were enrolled in 1935 and the school ran until 1939, war ending this initiative. On completion of the one year full time study course students received a state recognised diploma.

The period after the war saw little in the way of foundry education. In 1947, with support of the then Minister of Education, the National Foundry College was formed in Wolverhampton at the Wolverhampton and Stafford technical college. The head of the college was J Bamford who had been in charge of the British Foundry School between 1935 and 1939 and he was tasked with the re-establishment of the college diploma. The board of governors’ mandate was to supplement this with vocational and other courses which would be available on full time, part time and evenings and would cover the whole range of foundry educational needs. The National Foundry College closed in 1966, ironically the year India opened its foundry college, and staff and equipment were transferred to Wednesbury Technical College which was able to offer both a college diploma, based upon the diploma from the National Foundry College, and a HND in Foundry Technology. Foundry technology could now be studied in Wednesbury and later in Bolton and Chesterfield.

The termination of the FITB grant levies began the closure of foundry college courses around the country. Recessions and moves to source castings from low cost countries resulted in foundry closures and the numbers in foundry education fell. Colleges eventually could not justify hosting foundry education and, inevitably, in the 1990’s no college was offering foundry specific education.

The lack of suitable education and training facilities specific to our industry led to an industry where technology and leadership was in the hands of an aging workforce which if not addressed would seriously threaten manufacturing recovery and growth.
In 2013, following the development of a Diploma in Casting, supported by ICME with awarding body EAL, Dudley Technical College and the institute partnered to offer the Diploma in Casting to small groups of apprentices which, in 2015, then moved to a classroom facility rented from Newby Foundries Group. In addition Bradken hosted an adult group drawn from a range of foundries and 2015 saw the first 10 students obtain their Diplomas. Now there are 30+ students on the diploma course meeting in small groups around the country supported by the ICME tutors. The 2017 intake will start their study in April.

Paul Gullick and Pam Murrell together spoke of how ICME had addressed the needs of companies who could not release staff for the period of time that the full diploma demanded and created the ICME certificate in foundry studies. It is a much more flexible approach to learning in both time and content. It requires approximately 30 days of study which can be spread over 6 months or longer and can be delivered at the Newby Foundries centre or in company. There are 6 mandatory subjects and 4 optional subjects and these could be tailored to specific company needs. The ICME certificate is a stand-alone, non-accredited award which is becoming more recognised by industry but it can also be a technical certificate which will go towards an apprenticeship award.

The government recognising a need for apprentices across all industries has created the “Trail Blazer” scheme and a format whereby the standards will be designed by employers aiming to make the apprenticeships more relevant and more attractive to employers. Funding will in part come from apprenticeship levy warrants on companies. Still in its infancy it is a case of watch this space but the changes from the existing apprenticeship framework to a standards framework by 2018 is a government target.

The Elite Centre for foundry education is planned to open in September this year and offers many more possibilities for education and employee development. For the last few years ICME has offered short courses in a wide range of subjects. This has been widely taken up by foundries. Suppliers and casting end users have also used these short courses to impart technical knowledge to staff in sales, purchasing and engineering services. With the new centre, and the ability to draw on partner organisations, extending the education and career development courses is an obvious way of helping the institute to become the major training provider for foundries and associated industries.

Richard Heath gave a vote of thanks to Paul and Pam for an interesting and thought provoking presentation. The work being done in helping to develop the foundry leaders of the future should ensure the long term future of both the foundry industry and the ICME. Richard then invited those present to enjoy the buffet sponsored by the branch.