Engineering and Innovation provides exciting global opportunities and excellent rewards, says Gary Jefferson, Executive Director of Engineering and Technology at West Suffolk College, which is bidding to be one of the first Institutes of Technology in the UK.

When I was I child, I loved playing with Lego and Meccano so it only seemed natural that I should end up being an engineer. Particularly when I came from a large extended family with many relatives who enjoyed “tinkering” with various engineering projects.

At 14 I had an off road motocross bike and did all the upkeep myself, rebuilding the engine without a manual. By then I had already made the decision to go into engineering and never looked at another career.
After GCSEs, I became an apprentice with a manufacturing engineering company in Norfolk and attended college to study engineering.

At College, I achieved distinctions in all the subjects because I loved it! I really enjoyed designing and making things, finding solutions to problems and making the most of my creative thinking but logical mind.

My career has taken me from being an Engineering Apprentice to general manager to Engineering lecturer and into my current role as Executive Director at West Suffolk College.

These are the sort of skills, drive and ambition that we need in students joining our exciting new STEM Campus for the Eastern Region (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths), which is opening later this year in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.

We are all very excited about creating a regional STEM centre of excellence, made possible through investment from the New Anglia and Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and key business involvement. It will provide technical training and a skills pipeline in Engineering, Sciences and Digital Technology at Level 3 through to Higher education, particularly at technical levels 4 and 5 as well as training for teachers. It is well reported that there is a shortage of engineers and scientists, which is why we are creating an excellent environment and great courses that will get young people into an exciting career in all sorts of sectors, providing high value employment and uncapped opportunities.

Our work with the LEP, other education institutions and corporate partners is also very important in our application to create an Eastern Institute of Technology (EIOT) as part of a live Government competition process. If successful, the EIOT will be based within the STEM campus and across the region. Companies such as Warren Services, Treatt, Pearson, Bosch Rexworth and EDF Energy are all anchor partners in the bid, which builds on the strengths of the East’s competitive clusters and addresses the skills requirements for businesses in these sectors.

Students could go into manufacturing or maintenance in aerospace, the armed forces, nuclear, oil and gas, rail, the renewable sector, life sciences, agri-tech and digital technology.

Some factories are almost fully automated now, robots are in all industries from car production to cutting the lawn, and our students can be part of this massive growth area and will address a chronic skills gap for businesses.

As a general manager at a company that manufactured power steering equipment, I saw from my own experience training and recruiting apprentices that industry was struggling to recruit those with the right skills. Therefore, I decided I would like to share my skills and knowledge and I began teaching.

Now I am pleased to see eager young people, just as I was, who are enthusiastic to enter the world of innovation and engineering, where their careers will provide exciting global opportunities and excellent rewards. 

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