The METaL (Materials and Manufacturing Education, Training and Learning) Project is a work-based learning operation, funded by the European Social Fund through Welsh Government, and is part of the Faculty of Science & Engineering in Swansea University. To celebrate its 10-year anniversary, Professors Dave Penney and James Sullivan, reflect on how the project has progressed from the initial idea to a pan-Wales project which has delivered work-based learning to over 1000 people.
Professor James Sullivan
“We have come a long way since the initial idea 10 years ago. We were aware that Swansea University already provided a route to higher education for the employed with its programme of Masters and Engineering Doctorate courses.
"However, after talking to our colleagues in industry we could see there was a gap in training provision for existing employees working in industry who need to understand the fundamental science and engineering knowledge their underpin their roles. It also became clear that there are lots of people who didn’t do the traditional A-levels, degree and so on but rather went into work at 16 but now want to develop their skills and the access further education but in a flexible way. From this idea the METaL Project began to take shape.
“We believed that by providing short bite size chunks of training in the form of short 10 credit modules METaL would enable individuals, in work, to gain the underpinning knowledge needed to develop the engineering workforce.
”Our role is to support businesses and individuals through our training. We cannot under-estimate how important the advanced materials and manufacturing (AM&M) sector is for Wales's economic prosperity. During its 10-year history METaL has supported over 1300 individuals and over 80 different companies with their training needs. Furthermore, following training from METaL, 30 individuals chose to continue their journey into higher education, and we have now had our first person to go from METaL training, through to part time degree and all the way through to completing and Engineering Doctorate.
“It’s been an incredible journey, since its inception the METaL project has gone from strength to strength. The programme has grown from a project focused on South Wales and the Valleys to become a highly regarded pan-Wales operation.”
Professor Dave Penney
“Originally there were just three people employed on the project, however due to demand and a growing reputation with industry, the project has grown and now employees 11 full time staff to deliver the flexible online and in person training across various materials and manufacturing subjects.
“We have come a long way since the project’s humble beginnings. There’s a real sense of achievement in knowing how many people and businesses we have supported with their training needs and seeing the difference it makes to people’s lives and careers. We are constantly evolving to meet the changing needs of industry, COVID has certainly accelerated our move to more online delivery.
”The AM&M sector is constantly changing with new and emerging subsectors, such as renewable technology, Industry 4.0, Circular Economy and de-carbonisation. Over recent years some sectors have evolved dramatically including the aerospace and automotive industries with skills gaps being identified in battery technology, dynamos and specialised materials. These are also fundamental skills for the renewable sector and are becoming more in demand across the Welsh economy and beyond. METaL has strived to meet the demands of this rapidly changing sector by keeping their courses up to date and relevant for industry.
"More recently the METaL project has responded to the requirements of business during the pandemic with a swift and successful transition from classroom-based teaching to an entirely online delivery; both converting existing modules such as Corrosion & Coatings Technology, as well as developing brand new course material. The feedback from industry has been overwhelmingly positive, with both employers and employees appreciating the flexibility of online learning.
“The achievements of the last ten years would not have been possible without the vital support we have received from the European Social Fund and Welsh Government. The METaL team would like to extend they’re thanks to everyone involved with the project over the years who has contributed to the ongoing success of the project.“
What our industry partners have said
"As a company we have benefitted from several courses provided by the METaL project, and we are excited to continue to develop this relationship with the project and Swansea University." James Morton Director, MM Engineering
“As a company that is committed to professional development of our employees, we felt that METaL was the best solution.” Adrian Golding, Production Manager, Envases