November 14, 2016
Engineering apprentices Alexander Mason from Hedon and Daniel Coupland from Beverley are both on their way to the UK finals of the WorldSkills competition at the NEC in Birmingham on Wednesday 16th November.
Having reached the top six in the UK, the pair will be competing in CNC Milling, which is Computer Numerical Controlled machining. This involves programming a computer control module to operate a lathe or milling machine to cut and shape metal and other materials with precision – all from complex technical drawings. They are up against four other finalists from across the UK, vying for a place in the squad that will compete at the WorldSkills ‘Olympics’ in Abu Dhabi in 2017.
Alex, aged 20 is an apprentice engineer at D&D Engineering in Hull. D&D Engineering specialize in bespoke items and produce products as diverse as conveyor systems for factories, packaging machines, valve wheels for ships, bottling plant machinery, and food dispensers that get jam into doughnuts.
Alex said, “It feels good to be through to the final, I’m happy that my tutors and employers saw me as good enough to be put forward for the competition. The other competitors are at the top of their game, and taking part as one of the top six in the country is amazing.”
Alex’s employer, Mark Robinson of D&D Engineering said, “having Alex as an apprentice has really helped our business, along with the support and practical advice the College have given us. The WorldSkills Competition is a wonderful opportunity for Alex. Milling isn’t even his specialism, but it will stand him in good stead and we have supported him all the way – good on him!”
Danny, aged 21, works for John Hall Engineering in Bridlington who make many components including artificial hip joints and knee joints. He said, “I’m feeling excited and nervous about the competition – a mixture of everything really, it’s been a lot of hard work to prepare, but it’s a good opportunity. I’ve been practicing at weekends and teaching myself the software every night at home. The idea of getting to the Worlds is a bit daunting, I’m just taking it one step at a time, and I’ll try my best.”
His employer, Martin Hall said, “We’re really proud of Danny for getting this far in the competition, it’s a real achievement. I know he’s been practicing in his spare time after work, and he deserves to do well. It will be fantastic if he gets to compete in Abu Dhabi, on the world stage. Having him as an apprentice has been great, it’s been of benefit to him and a boost for our business.”
Head of Engineering at East Riding College Gary Simm said, “Alex and Danny have achieved great things throughout their time at the College and are very able CNC engineers. They both have the potential to be selected for the squad. They are both on track to complete their apprenticeship programs ahead of schedule too, even though the competition has taken up a lot of their time.”
To get to the UK finals both apprentices competed at a regional level. The competition is tough and involves making components to within a thou of a millimeter. The component must be the right size and shape, include accurate, intricate marks such as tapped holes (a hole that is threaded to take a screw or bolt), drilled holes, ringed holes, and pocketed holes. The competitors have to first program the machine using specialist software, interpreting complex technical drawings. They then use the machine to create the component. This is all done against the clock and there is no room for error – they work with one piece of metal or material, so there are no second chances!
Alex is from a family of engineers, his father and grandfather were both in the profession. When he joined the College after leaving school he believed he might be joining a dying trade, but in just the last few years he has seen more people coming into engineering and can see that it has a bright future. He is keen to encourage others into the sector and his tutor Clive Isaacs has noted that Alex is a natural at instructing others in the technical aspects of the discipline, and is keen to pass on his expertise. So much so, that Alex has already been asked to help deliver the CNC masterclasses that the College delivers to employers in the area.
Clive also points out: “The competition has highlighted the importance of the College having this kind of hi-tech machinery for students and apprentices to train on. The mechanical manufacturing field is changing and becoming more and more technical. It is a field of engineering that is evolving particularly quickly, and East Riding College apprentice engineers are at the forefront of it. The competition can only improve Alex and Danny’s chances of advancing in the profession in future, and bring benefits back to the businesses that first gave them a chance as an apprentice.”
Article released on www.eastridingcollege.ac.uk on the 11th November 2016.
A huge congratulations from all the team here at D&D!