The ACR Journal talks to manufacturer Torin-Sifan about how it is encouraging young people into engineering
Engineering currently accounts for a quarter of UK turnover. Figures from the Engineering UK 2015 annual report stated that filling the demand for new engineering jobs would generate an additional £27 billion per year for the UK economy and the number of engineering apprentices and graduates entering the industry would need to double to meet this demand.
Swindon-based Torin-Sifan can vouch for the buoyant engineering sector.The company is a leading manufacturer of fans and blower products that utilise high efficiency EC motors (electronically commutated) and AC motors for the residential and commercial Heating, Ventilation and Air conditioning market in Europe.
The company has been manufacturing in Swindon for over 50 years. In 2015 Torin-Sifan expanded its operations in Swindon opening a new manufacturing facility specialising in EC technology. The new 25,000 sq ft EC Manufacturing and Technology Centre has created 25 new jobs, primarily in advanced and applications engineering for its EC products, enabling an expansion programme focussed on delivering energy efficient, quiet and controllable air movement solutions for clients all over the world. Over the last decade legislation aimed at reducing energy consumption of building products has driven significant migration to EC technology and with demand continuing to grow significantly, the new Torin-Sifan EC Manufacturing and Technology Centre provides the manufacturing capacity needed to satisfy future requirements.
There is currently an annual shortfall of 55,000 skilled workers in the UK. The key to filling this gap is encouraging more young people into engineering. Since engineering has a critical role in nearly all parts of society, it is important to engage young people and to widen its appeal so it is not just attracting those passionate about science technology, engineering and maths.
At Torin-Sifan the company is committed to doing just that and capturing the imagination of young people early on. Martin Page, Torin-Sifan’s Technical Director is heavily involved in the company’s internal training programmes and outreach to local schools and colleges. Formerly a lecturer at RMCS Shrivenham he previously lectured in power electronics and is a chartered electronics engineer. He is also the IET (Institution of Engineering and Technology) Swindon secretary.
Torin-Sifan is passionate about encouraging young people into engineering working with the IET, Engineering Development Trust (EDT) and local schools and colleges to involve young people in engineering ‘from the ground up’. Martin helps to achieve this through lectures and talks to schools and colleges for the IET.
Torin-Sifan is also heavily involved in the EDT and enters the Go4Set initiative with local schools each year. Go4Set aims to encourage young people into engineering and involves the company sponsoring and mentoring a school. Go4SET links teams of six Year 8/9 (England) and S2 (Scotland) pupils with employers and universities to offer a 10 week Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Project.The subsequent project is then judged by the EDT. Torin-Sifan has entered the last four years and has won a prize three out of four years.
Through the EDT Martin also assesses local schools. Meanwhile on the practical side Torin-Sifan offers work experience to a local school to show that engineering is not restricted and that there are many different areas and disciplines.
“We take them into the labs and engineering department to ensure they have exposure to engineering.”
Immersing young people in engineering is key to igniting a passion for the subject. Torin-Sifan is therefore involved in the Year in Industry programme through the EDT which organises the paid placements of pre-university students during their gap year before or during their degree. At Torin-Sifan this involves the company bringing the students into its engineering department, here they work alongside electronics and mechanical engineers in the engineering lab experiencing the discipline.
In the lab students can experience the complexities of manufacturing fans and motors. To some a fan or a motor may seem a simple product to design, develop and manufacture, but a wide range of engineering disciplines and skills are needed including: electronics, electromagnetics, firmware, software, electromechanical (printed circuit assemblies), mechanical, aeromechanical, fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, rotational dynamics, vibration, acoustics, materials, product design, packaging, design for manufacture, sheet material forming, plastic moulding design, tooling, production test, product approvals and third party certification, detail drawing and 3D solid modelling.
“What is key with people coming into Torin-Sifan is that we don’t pigeon hole people in engineering. There are a wide range of disciplines which include every part of the physics spectrum. We may have specialists but generally there is cross fertilisation of other areas which is key to understanding the technology as a whole.”
Keen to support a passion for engineering Torin-Sifan also currently sponsors a previous year in industry student through his studies. The student is currently taking a masters in Mechanical Engineering at Exeter University. Every holiday he has a paid placement working at Torin-Sifan and the company also pays for his university books.
“The work he does here is project-related. At the end of the holidays he writes it up and we sign it off for part of his professional membership.”
Torin-Sifan’s commitment to engaging young people continues with its own members of staff. The company runs a three-year graduate training programme developed by Martin Page. The company currently has eight graduate engineers enrolled on the programme. The programme is a combination of self-study and practical goals. To complete the training programme the graduates must demonstrate competence and commitment against the five core elements: Knowledge and Understanding; Application to Practice; Leadership and Personal Responsibility; Interpersonal Skill; and Professional Conduct.
Graduate entry is not the only way to join Torin-Sifan as an engineer. The company also has a successful apprenticeship programme. It recently had two apprentices, one an electronic engineer and one mechanical engineer, both completed a four-year advanced apprenticeship and have now been taken on as employees. Torin-Sifan now plans to take on some further engineering apprenticeships.
Torin-Sifan employees can be assured that there are also opportunities to develop their roles internally.
“There is no glass ceiling here.”
So if employees have the aspiration to develop their role they are encouraged to do so with Torin-Sifan, following a policy of promoting from within.
So with engineering booming, Torin-Sifan is actively engaging the next generation of engineers today. It is this type of employer engagement which will ensure we have the engineers required in the future.