Stem Innovation Centre, West Suffolk College

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This first-class facility supported by a £7m investment from the LEP was developed in collaboration with businesses from across the region to ensure the training is aligned with their skills needs.

The STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) Innovation Campus at West Suffolk College opened its doors in September 2019 with the aim of attracting students interested in energy, engineering and advanced manufacturing – all sectors where demand for skills locally is growing.

It provides technical training and a skills supply in engineering, sciences and digital technology at Level 3 through to Higher Education, as well as training for teachers.

Gary Jefferson, Executive Director for Engineering and Technology, said: “The STEM curriculum at West Suffolk College is designed with employers, taking consideration of New Anglia LEP regional skills plans and directly addresses identified skills shortages for the five high-impact sectors with the greatest opportunity for economic growth.

“Our programmes are designed to teach our students applied skills, rather than the traditional pure classroom-based theory methods, to ensure our students graduate with the skills our employers need and knowing how to use them. This enhances their work readiness and enables them to make a greater contribution to their future employers from day one.”

Case study

Name: Catherine Leahy
Company: TWI (Training and Examination Services Worldwide)
Course: Degree Apprenticeship – Applied Engineering BEng – University of Warwick

What did you enjoy most about doing an apprenticeship?
What I enjoyed most about my advanced apprenticeship at West Suffolk College was the mixture of theory-based knowledge learned in my lectures, combined with the hands-on experience gained working at TWI. Gaining this invaluable experience in industry while still studying formal qualifications – and to earn a wage – just seems like the perfect option for me.

What made you decide to take the apprenticeship route?
After leaving school, I found the idea of jumping straight into a job or full-time university very daunting, as I’m sure many teenagers do, so I decided to find an apprenticeship. This allowed me to experience a hands-on job role, without the huge commitment and debt of university.

Tell us about your day job/studies, what do you do now?
My day-job now at TWI is Corrosion Technician. I work alongside TWI’s experts to provide research to our clients. This consists of environmental electrochemical corrosion testing, polymer ageing/permeation, and coatings for various applications. I am also currently studying a degree apprenticeship for a BEng in Applied Engineering with the University of Warwick.

How did the course relate to what you do on a daily basis?
Both my advanced and degree apprenticeship courses have helped me to understand the theory behind a lot of what I do in my job role, and therefore helped me perform better. I have also learned a number of practical skills from my advanced apprenticeship, such as using basic hand tools and mechanical assembly.

Would you recommend doing an apprenticeship to others?
I would recommend an apprenticeship to anyone who is committed to their future. It is not always the easiest option, with juggling a job and studying. But in my opinion, it is definitely the most fulfilling.

If you could use one word to describe your apprenticeship what would it be?

The impact

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