Erodex UK, a specialist in graphite and graphite machining for the aerospace industry, has launched an innovative virtual reality experience to inform and inspire engineering students at a local college towards a career in its industry.
Over a period of two days, team members from Wednesbury-based Erodex ran four sessions for over 60 full-time engineering students at City of Wolverhampton College.
The sessions were the first to include a new virtual reality experience, which enabled students to get a first-hand 3D insight into Erodex’s state-of-the-art graphite machining facility, hear from a range of team members and more broadly, gain an understanding of the variety of roles available at a company like Erodex.
The virtual reality experience was complimented by ‘meet the employee’ Q&A discussions including former apprentice and current production manager Ellie Emery, engineer and apprentice mentor John Webb and James Kirk, operations director.
During the sessions, students were also set a task to complete in small groups with the aim of enhancing their learning experience and providing more depth to their level of insight into real-world engineering. This required them to inspect several graphite machined electrodes using digital micrometers, comparing each to the kind of exacting quality standards that apply across all components produced for the aerospace industry.
Students were then informed of the apprenticeship roles available this summer at Erodex, with those interested in learning more being invited to apply for work experience placements with the company.
James Kirk, operations director at Erodex commented: “Like so many engineering firms Erodex are looking to the next generation to futureproof our workforce. 2023 sees the relaunch of our apprenticeship scheme, something which we are committed to making sure is best in class.
“We want the best young engineering talent to aspire to work for us and we understand that for that to happen we need comprehensive local outreach to raise our brand awareness as a good employer and a top choice for engineering apprenticeships.
“The time commitment to deliver these sessions is considerable, so we wanted to ensure that we created a memorable and informative experience for the students – many of whom are now fully aware of what we do, who we do it for and how they could be the engineers of the future with us.”
Daniel Degg, head of employer engagement & business development at City of Wolverhampton College added: “We are delighted to have hosted Erodex for these educational sessions and for our students to be able to access them. The virtual reality experience is very innovative, and we are pleased to be able to utilise this technology to engage and inspire students.
“As a college, it is important that we give our students an insight into what working within engineering is like and the range of opportunities available to them. This was not only a fantastic way of achieving that but the variety of activities within the sessions ensured that the students we always engaged and had multiple opportunities to learn.
“It is also important for members of our teaching staff to gain a better understanding of local companies like Erodex and the industries in which they work, as we are now more able to advise students moving forward.”
This summer Erodex will be taking on two Apprentice Engineering Technicians within its graphite machining facility in Wednesbury, West Midlands. The company expects its apprenticeship scheme to expand significantly within the coming years covering a range of roles across both the machining facility and the company’s HQ in Halesowen.
Mr Kirk concludes: “Overall we were delighted with how well the VR sessions were received. We acknowledge that for SME’s like us to compete for young engineering talent we need to differentiate and innovate, as evidenced by this project. We expect to expand on this activity moving forward, potentially opening the opportunities up to deliver sessions in local high schools as well as colleges.
“To achieve this, we are fortunate to have the ongoing support of two specialised organisations, Digital Gap – who created the VR experience and Next Gen Makers, whose Engineering Apprenticeships: Best Practice Programme we’re following to benchmark our approach and ensure our apprenticeship scheme is best in class as it scales.”
Next Gen Makers