Developing young people’s skills in engineering and science
Coleg Sir Gâr has been running a national Saturday morning club in engineering and science for nearly 20 years.
The club aims to inspire and introduce young people from local comprehensive schools to the wide range of careers that are available in these industries.
The club was initially developed with Careers Wales but is now sponsored by Reaching Wider, supporting youngsters and widening access for hard to reach groups to teach 14 to 16 year olds skills in science, electrical and electronic engineering as well as advanced manufacturing and computer science.
This work is supported by high end companies and industry professionals across the area, who have shown through practical masterclasses and industrial visits, the range of diverse careers available.
The college recently spoke to students Keira, Zeeshan, Ethan and Shaughn, who say that attending the club had a significant impact on their choice of study and career.
Coronavirus has delayed this year’s club but the college hopes to resume the Science and Engineering Club in the new year, allowing four or five week blocks of sessions, per school for years 10 and 11.
Ethan Thomas has always enjoyed practical work, from helping his father with construction work and refurbishing classic cars to building Airfix models as a child.
He is a big believer of seizing every opportunity and that’s why he took part in the Science and Engineering Saturday Club at Coleg Sir Gâr which he says helped him gain an insight into the industry and had a profound effect on his current career choice.
Funded by Reaching Wider, the club gave Ethan many more practical skills to his bow including fitting, basic sawing, using pillar drills, thread cutting and learning about drill speeds and how various materials react.
He gained additional skills in wiring and soldering to design and make speakers as part of a project and was about to fabricate their casing made from a piston diesel generator engine when the pandemic struck.
Ethan is now on a City and Guilds level two general engineering course at the college and he’s resitting his GCSEs in maths and English. He said: “If you don’t get all the GCSEs you want, you can resit them as part of your course, it’s helped me a lot and everyone wants you to do well as they want to see you get that C grade.
“Seize every opportunity given to you, the more you know, the more you learn and the better equipped you are.”
Ethan hopes to work as an apprentice in an engineering role and work his way up to mentoring other apprentices as well as develop his interests in health and safety in an engineering environment.
Pic: Ethan working on a lathe
If it wasn’t for a medical barrier, former Strade student Keira Lyons, had her sights set for a career in the Royal Airforce, following in her father’s footsteps.
Since joining Coleg Sir Gâr’s Science and Engineering Saturday Club and then signing up to an engineering course, she’s thinking of developing her future career towards aircraft engineering.
Keira was inspired to learn more about engineering following a school trip to an organisation which was promoting women working in the industry.
She learnt about the Saturday club from a friend and with a strong mindset about women working in male dominated industries, she set about joining.
Funded by Reaching Wider, the club taught Keira skills in mechanical and electrical engineering as well as 3D design using CAD. “I experienced everything,” she said. “I looked forward to it every week and I feel that being involved in the club helped me make the right decision to study engineering at college.”
Now studying a level three course in mechanical engineering, Keira is hoping to be the first in her family to gain a degree, even though her dad achieved a HNC at Coleg Sir Gâr in his later career.
Keira Lyons, who has a keen interest in military roles, added: “The staff are great at college and in the club, some of them have worked in the aircraft industry, so they inspired me to look at that as a career option, after all, I’m going to be working for around 50 years of my life so I need to make the right choice.
“If you study engineering, you’ll see that there are many options out there such as working as an engineer on a ship with the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, supporting Royal Navy military operations.”
Pic: Keira setting up the drill
Shaughn Poulter joined Coleg Sir Gâr’s Science and Engineering Saturday Club following a school talk by the college and a recommendation from his STEM teacher at Ysgol Glan y Mor.
He says that the club, funded by Reaching Wider, opened his eyes to engineering and the range of careers within the industry.
Now a second year HNC mechanical engineering apprentice working as a maintenance fitter for TATA Steel, Shaughn says that being involved in the club helped him make a firm career choice.
Shaughn Poulter said: “The club definitely cemented in me that engineering was my future.
“My employer was also very interested and spoke positively about what I did within the Saturday club which I think helped my apprenticeship application.
“Saturday club also got me thinking in a problem-solving way, the lecturers don’t give you the answers, they encourage you to problem solve things in your own mind’s way.”
Being involved also brought other benefits for Shaughn, such as being introduced to other aspects of engineering such as electrical work and being shown other engineering principles.
In addition, Shaughn, as are all engineering students at Coleg Sir Gâr, was given free CAD software for home use.
Shaughn Poulton added: “My most memorable activity in Saturday club was designing a mini aeroplane where we used research, CAD drawings, prototypes and materials such as thermosetting plastics, then we tested each one and spoke about the engineering principles involved in each performance, what works and what could be improved.
“When I joined Coleg Sir Gâr after school, I had a slight advantage over other students as I was already familiar with staff and the facilities and as a result of my CAD work in the club, I was entered into a Skills Competition Wales event.”
Shaughn worked with the Science and Engineering Saturday Club for two years, his second year returning as a mentor.
Zeesh Ibrahim’s interest in electrical and electronic engineering was sparked by Coleg Sir Gâr’s Science and Engineering Saturday Club following a visit to his school by the college’s head of engineering.
Now an electronic and electrical engineering student, Zeesh says that without the club, he would have had less interest in studying engineering as a career.
The Saturday morning club, funded by Reaching Wider, introduced him to skills such as wiring, soldering, CAD, 3D printing and bench fitting.
He was also involved in a project to design parts for a train that hovered over a magnetic track.
Zeesh is now studying a level three course studying full-time during his first year and then in an apprenticeship in his second year where he’ll be working with process automation and maintenance.
He spent two years in the Saturday club as he returned as a mentor during year two, to inspire the next generation of engineers.
Zeesh Ibrahim said: “Anyone who is interested in engineering should join this club as it will give you an insight into the different careers available within the industry which helps when you’re choosing career goals.
“When I joined Coleg Sir Gâr as a student, the club gave me some advantage over other students as I had already learnt skills such as soldering.”