Interviewing the team ahead of the World Skills final in August
Andrew Isaac James
What made you all choose engineering for a career? Did anyone in particular influence you?
A) For me it started when I was doing my A Levels in product design and getting to grips with the CAD system, the whole process of working on a project, seeing how it developed made me realise it was right for me. Initially I was going to be an accountant because I was good at maths but as it developed in my head, I thought against it, I took advice from my tutor at the time who saw potential in me to follow an engineering career, as I looked into it more I decided it was where I wanted to go.
J) From a young age I was into trains and locomotives, I was around 12 when my grandad and I built a 5-inch live steam engine that we could take to the local park’s miniature railway track and give people a ride on the back of it. Ever since then I have always been into taking things apart, and putting them back together. I was doing my A Levels in product design and sport, I had applied to go to university to study sport but the Uni lifestyle didn’t appeal to me so I decided not to pursue that and began looking for engineering apprenticeships which was something I had always had in the back of my mind.
I) I was also doing my A Levels but I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, I was looking at engineering courses at university but decided against that, I had a friend who worked at CarnaudMetalbox and after talking to him I decided to pursue an apprenticeship instead.
Why did you choose an apprenticeship over university?
J) In an apprenticeship, you are learning while being paid which is a big thing when you are young. You are more likely to get a job afterwards due to having more life skills and you are not going to get into masses of debt on tuition fees. At university, you learn textbook skills but in an apprenticeship it is more hands on and you learn physically how to do things.
I) People learn in different ways. If you go to University, you will only learn from a lecturer so you will only have their opinion on how to do stuff or how things work, in an apprenticeship you are learning on the shop floor with hundreds of people, essentially gaining more access to more knowledge. You get a degree from going to Uni but you will not have any experience at being an engineer, if you get your degree through an apprenticeship you have already been an engineer.
A) In the past, I think university had more stature and schools still really push you to go down this route. While I was doing my A Levels there was only one person at the back of the library who could give me information on apprenticeships whereas all your teachers are pushing Uni on you, it’s almost expected of you to go whether it’s right for you or not. I had decided Uni wasn’t for me, not that I couldn’t do it I just didn’t want to get into that much debt without any guarantee I could get a job at the end of it, I didn’t want to take that risk. Apprenticeships give you more flexibility to work out if it is what you really want to do, they give you a better transition into the working world making you more employable.
What made you choose CMB for your apprenticeship?
A) Initially I wasn’t fully aware of what CMB did, I had heard of Metalbox (being a local lad) but I thought they were more about running machines than making them so at first I thought they weren’t for me, then I spoke to somebody who had done some work experience here and realised I’d got it wrong. I applied for an apprenticeship at CMB and somewhere else but as soon as I had the Interview here, I felt confident this was the right thing for me, I decided to go for it and it has paid off.
J) I knew I wanted an apprenticeship in engineering but I didn’t know where to start looking, my mum was helping me find companies and she came across CMB. I started looking into them and the first thing I saw was a piece on the apprentices who won a medal of excellence in the 2013 World Skills competition in Germany, that really impressed me and from there I applied and got an interview. I was offered an apprenticeship in electrical engineering, which I hadn’t really thought about before, I had mechanical engineering more in mind but after looking into it further, I felt it was a wider skill to learn with more scope to develop so I decided to accept it.
I) I was studying my A levels and planning to go to university to study engineering, a friend who had done an apprenticeship at CarnaudMetalbox recommended it to me so I looked into the company further and decided to apply, once I had the interview I knew it was the right decision for me.
Where do you see yourself fitting into the Shipley workforce in the future?
I) For now, I am just keen to work on the machines, take on more workload and get on board with builds.
A) I am already part of the workforce, I have been out of my apprenticeship for a year now. I have been working part time in the engineering department while I have been training for world skills but I think I’ve settled in quite well, I work mainly on the neckers which I enjoy, I definitely see my future staying here at CMB.
J) I would like to stay at Shipley but I feel that World Skills may actually have hindered my chances in a way, training for World Skills has taken a big chunk out of my apprenticeship so I haven’t had as much time on the machines as I’d like, because of that my apprenticeship has been extended. I am looking forward to being put onto more builds after the competition and gaining more experience in that.
How did you get involved in the World Skills competition?
A) An announcement went out that CMB wanted to put together a team for World Skills. I was nearing the back end of the first year of my apprenticeship and I didn’t think I had enough experience, but with the length of the journey I realised I would pick it up on the way so I applied, I have not regretted it one bit.
J) I applied when I heard there was an opening in the Electrical dept of the team, the brief at the time was to build a locomotive that had to pick up rubble so I was keen to get involved in that.
I) I was still at college, I was just finishing my first year when one of the guys in the team decided he wanted to leave and work more on the machines. They needed a machine mechanic to replace him and I am not sure if they had many options so I think they were stuck with me… I was impressed with the previous team winning gold so decided I would go for it.
How do the three of you complement each other in the team?
A) We all have different skillsets, mechanical, electrical, machining and CAD but we are all able to help each other with workloads, each task can take a different amount of time so we don’t let one person struggle while the others are doing ok. We definitely do our best to support each other. On a personal level we all work together really well, I don’t think you could be in a team like this and be successful if you didn’t. There are times when things don’t go as well as they should and that causes frustrations but we have to get past that and move on, working the problem together. We would not be where we are now if we didn’t have a good bond.
Is there a natural leader? Who is it and why?
Both Isaac & James point to Andrew and he laughs…
A) At first I didn’t want to take on that role, I didn’t want to be the one telling the others what to do so I sort of took a step back, it soon became apparent that somebody did need to be a leader and not having one was setting us back a bit so I stepped up. Having said that we do still spread the lead around depending on the job in hand, we are very much a team.
J) I think at first we were all trying to be that leader, telling each other what to do, which was making things worse. We all still have plenty of input though, especially in our specific areas.
Tell me about the project you have to complete, is there a criteria you have to fulfil to win?
A) We have to build an electric wheelchair; it must be able to go over a 200mm step as comfortably as possible. It has to fold down to fit into a transportation box measuring no more than 1000mm long x 700mm high x 300mm wide, it also must fold down as quickly as possible as part of a time trial. It has to have a seat that sits below 400mm in height and must be able to raise to over 700mm in height electrically with no manual handling. It has to be able to take a lot of weight, a 100-kilo person sat in it with another 100-kilo person stood on the back of it. It must go round a course with a step, ramps, and tight corners all with two people on it. It then has to do a distance trial; it has to be able to go 2.5 kilometres in half an hour again with two people on it plus a luggage box weighing 7 kilos. Obviously, it has to be very durable but to win it also needs to be competitive, the lightest one will receive extra marks and the cheapest one will also receive extra marks so those are the two biggest dictators in our design.
Over the 3 days of competing we have to build it completely from scratch, create all the 2D CAD drawings and then all the 3D CAD drawings. We are currently looking at about 40 drawings all from scratch, which at the minute is taking 8 hours constant work and we have a maximum of 22 working hours to complete the full project. James has to design and build all the electrical circuit boards and tracks and Isaac has to do all the welding and fabrication. There is also a surprise element that equates to 30% of the competition, we do all the training in advance but we when get there we don’t know what these surprise elements will be or the time scales involved so we need to be able to be flexible and possibly sacrifice some marks for others.
How are you all coping with the challenges & pressures involved?
J) There have been plenty of challenges, I think the key thing is we don’t individually take on massive loads of work, we balance it out and help with each other’s tasks, and we support each other. For example, I have my electrical tasks on the wheelchair then I will have my surprise project at the same time but I am also picking up one of the machining tasks to make Andrews life a little bit easier.
While you have been competing in the World Skills, is there anything you have learned that you think will help you in your future career?
A) Well I would not have the job I am doing today if it was not for the experience I have had during my time with World Skills, there is so much that is different to how an apprenticeship works. There is much more problem solving that you have to do on your own, these problems evolve all the time and they are the kind that wouldn’t be thrown at you during a normal apprenticeship. Also working closely in a small team is a unique thing to experience, it teaches you people / life skills. Getting the mixture of experience in both design and manufacturing is a unique part of being involved in the World Skills competition, you would usually just get machine shop experience not both so that has definitely helped developed my skills and opened my eyes to future possibilities.
J) I would say for me I have picked up a lot on the knowledge of electronics, how things work like building circuits from scratch. With World Skills I have had to do all the design myself so I feel like that has given me more appreciation of what goes on behind the scenes and the work involved, I will be able to take that to the machines and have a better understanding of how things work. I have done a fault finding course so if something goes wrong on the wheelchair I instantly know the procedures to follow to find whats wrong, this is something else I will be able to take to the machines. I don’t think I would have had access to that kind of course in an apprenticeship, I would have had to pick that up on the way by making mistakes, having done this course I don’t have to make those mistakes, it’s a more positive way of learning which makes me feel more competent.
I) World skills has definitely opened doors to learning more skills and gaining qualifications. For example welding, I wouldn’t have done that in my apprenticeship, but because it is part of the competition I now have an extra skill that will benefit my employer and ads to my CV. Being involved in World Skills is also like running your own business, we have a budget and have to make difficult decisions, a big chunk of our time is not only spent building but working out logistics like where we need to be, when we need things for, how long it will take for parts to arrive from suppliers. These kind of planning skills you would not normal get and can help a lot in the future.
Has the World Skills helped you to develop as a person?
I) Yes absolutely, the extra skills I have learnt have helped increase my confidence, my communication skills and ability to work effectively in a team. I have had to learn how to speak to people and adapt myself to things like being in a formal environment, for example going to parliament and being interviewed, I have had media training to learn how to handle myself in public and how to talk to the media.
J) You grow up a lot from doing world skills, learning how to be professional and how to act in different situations.
A) You learn a lot about responsibility and respect for the people around you. There is a lot of trust in us to deliver and you want to do your best to represent the company
What is the most exciting part about being involved in World Skills?
I) Finishing! Getting to the final has been hard work, I am looking forward to executing all the plans we have put in place.
A) Yes, the home straight, we have put in so much work and effort to build up to the final I cannot wait to get it done. I am also looking forward to getting back to a normal working life.
Would you recommend entering into the World Skills competition and why?
J) It all depends on what you want to get out of it, if you just want to learn the more practical side of machines and how they work, I would say it is not for you. If you want, more knowledge on how a business works and want to gain access to learning more skills than you usually would then it is definitely something to look at. It’s not plain sailing, it can be tough balancing world skills and your apprenticeship but it’s worth it in the end. No matter what happens in the final, wherever we come on the leader board the opportunities afterwards are there to do anything you want. If you look at all the people who have done World Skills and look where they are now, they are all team leaders or department managers, all people who have succeeded.
A) When you put yourself forward for World Skills your managers will be aware of the impact it will have on your machine time, as long as you handle it right and do your best I would not let that phase you too much because you are still going to get the same opportunities afterwards. You learn many important life skills. For me I would massively recommend it, just be aware of the time that is involved with it for both your work and personal life.
I) I would recommend doing it but you have to give it 100%, you have to be fully committed. A massive plus side is you are in the spotlight and everything you do is noticed so it is a good way to be seen by management and show off your skillset.
When you are not working and training, what do you all do for fun?
I) I like to go to the Gym and play rugby. I enjoy eating out and going to the movies. It is very tiring training for World Skills so I like to rest and chill out any chance I get, I like watching Netflix on a Sunday and not moving out of bed.
J) I enjoy extreme sports, I am a competitive scooter rider, I just have a new sponsor and I have a few competitions coming up so I am training a lot for that. When I am not riding, I’m at home getting ready to be a dad, down time is bedtime really, sleep is very important at the moment. I like messing with cars, taken them apart and fixing them up, not necessarily making them better, they just seem to end up loader!
A) I try to work out when I can, I like to go out with my mates to the pub, I have a motorbike in the garage that needs fixing up but I don’t seem to get much time to do that at the moment. I like to spend time with my family though and taking my nephew fishing is a nice break for me.
Do you believe you can win gold?
A) A lot depends on how it goes on the day, if the team has a bad day or something goes wrong it can take you from top to bottom very quickly, it can all change in a blink of an eye and this has been the hardest brief we’ve ever had. There is so much going on with the wheelchair and many teams have already pulled out. There are usually about 16 teams but now there are only eight or nine of us so that makes the competition a lot tighter. We have done all the designs and everything ourselves, which I think puts us at a good advantage, we have more inside knowledge of our project and problem solving should be easier for us. It is going to be tough but we will try our best and do our hardest to win.
J) The manufacturing challenge is one of the hardest challenges there is in the competition, on top of that, many other competing countries do not have to juggle work and world skills, and they can concentrate solely on their projects. They may even have had designs done by experts, which means they will have had more time to concentrate on their core skills. We want to finish in the top five but I will be happy with a medallion of excellence.
I) I will just be happy if we go and do the absolute best that we can. If we do that than it does not matter where we come in the competition, we can hold our heads up high and know in our hearts that we could not have done any better. If something breaks, goes wrong or we make a mistake that we would not normally make then we are going to be really frustrated with ourselves but if we go and do everything right and still come last, we can say we couldn’t have done it any better. I do not want to come back thinking we could have done better.
The 2019 World Skills competition will take place in Kazan, Russia, from Thursday 22nd August to Tuesday 27th August.
The event will be shown live on TV around the World and has the potential to change the lives and careers of those that compete.
Andrew Truelove – General Manager at CarnaudMetalbox Engineering comments ‘Representing your country on the world stage is no easy feat. It takes hard work, determination and a high level of skill and we are thrilled that our young engineers have made it on that plane to Kazan, their selection is an outstanding achievement and a fine testament to the value and quality of the apprenticeship schemes we are proud to run at CMB Engineering’.
We wish our team the best of luck.