Brevini Examines State of U.K. Engineering
It has always been the case that fresh out of college or university; engineering graduates have knowledge gaps which can only be filled with real world experience. However, with technology developing at a rapid rate, these gaps are becoming ever wider as courses are expected to cover more ground. Rather than lamenting failing standards in education, maybe it is the job of companies operating in the U.K. to develop more graduate training programmes, to make sure that the wealth of experience that our established engineering force has is passed down to the new generation. Dave Brown, sales manager for Brevini Power Transmission, explains how graduate training programmes can improve the individual performance of recently qualified engineers while also maintaining the standard of U.K. Engineering on the world stage:
Working within a mechanical engineering discipline it's quite common to hear experienced engineers comment on the inexperience and lack of knowledge of recent graduates. It is felt that courses aren't teaching basic skills such as reading and understanding technical drawings, calculating tolerances, surface finishing requirements or material selection. This lack of real world knowledge and skills means that often graduate engineers aren't able to 'hit the ground running' and additional training is required to turn them into profitable employees. But rather than blaming graduates or the education system for a decline in standards, I think that it's important that we take the time to look back to our early careers and also consider the changes that we've seen in the engineering profession as a whole over the last decade or so.
While some engineering undergraduates enter university with a specific career plan, in my own case - and I believe as is more commonly the case - undergraduates have little idea what area of engineering they may end up in. In some cases they may even be unsure if they will take up a career in engineering at all after graduating. I found myself studying engineering not because I knew specifically what career I hoped to enter, but more because of a general interest and the fact that my education choices, and more specifically my A-Level results, very much suited a science or engineering route. This meant that I didn't focus in on any one particular discipline as I wanted as wide a knowledge base as possible.
With this in mind it is impossible to expect a graduate to focus all of their attention on a particular sub-set of skills while they are studying, rather they must study as broad a spectrum as possible to provide them with options once they graduate. When I left university and began working for Brevini Power Transmission I had only a limited knowledge of gearbox and winch technology.I have no doubt that some of my early questions made my superiors fret for the future of British engineering.
The last twenty five years has seen a revolution in engineering design since CAD technology has become almost universal. Now an average college design and technology student can build a 3-D model on their computer then print it on the school's 3-D printer. With technologies like this emerging its little wonder that modern graduates are spending more time developing their computer based skills and less on analogue skills.
I believe that this migration from paper to computer can account partially for the gap in understanding of tolerances and material selection etc. as students simply aren't forced to consider them as we were; relying instead on computer programmes which work them out automatically. What we as an industry have to accept though, is that no education centre is going to risk to be seen as outdated by moving their syllabus away from modern technologies. And nor should they, it is their responsibility to educate students in the modern developments of engineering so that graduates can enter the world of work at the cutting edge. It is then our responsibility to mould their skill to match the requirements of the jobs we give them.
At Brevini our strength in the market is the technical approach that we take to every solution we sell. We don't just sell a gearbox. We understand our customer's design, appreciate their drivers and work in partnership to develop the best solution possible. This requires a general understanding of mechanical engineering, so we can speak to customers in any industry, but also a specific and highly technical understanding of gears that no graduate would be expected to hold. But rather than give graduates up as a lost cause we have developed a training programme which imparts our hard won knowledge and invests in the future of the business.
By generating our own training material we are able to educate our graduates on Power Transmission Studies, Ratio Explanations, Gear Design and Engineering Knowledge and Gearbox Selection. The training has been universally well received by everyone who has completed it and we are now able to routinely develop graduates with no real world experience into a fully competent role within six months. Previously this could have taken anywhere up to two years.
In fact we are now offering basic gearbox training courses to companies we work with (both suppliers and customers) who have graduates who may need to understand the basics of the technology in their jobs. Again, no-one can have an expert knowledge of every technology,but by learning the basics of gearbox design and selection many engineers within industries such as mining, offshore, water, renewables, waste and recycling etc. can become more efficient.
Our training courses are completely free and open to anyone who feels that they could benefit from learning more about gearbox technology. Rather than seeing it as giving away our trade secrets, we believe that by spreading our knowledge we can create a deeper appreciation of our technology within the market and strengthen the relationship we have with our customers when working together on new bespoke designs.
It is our belief that if companies aren't willing to invest in our country's young engineers, and commit to supporting their growth in the early stages of their career, then we will only have ourselves to blame if, in 20 years time, all the experienced engineers begin to retire we have no-one to replace them. Developing training programs is a simple process and one that could help to keep the UK as a leader in engineering.
|Brevini U.K. Ltd.|