A top trailer firm has inspired youngsters into engineering and technology careers after staging a key exhibition at the Daysure Wales Rally GB, one of the biggest annual events on the Welsh calendar.
Ifor Williams Trailers exhibited at the phenomenally popular Big Bang STEM event, a major part of the rally’s fringe activities programme in Deeside.
Thousands of youngsters from across North Wales, Cheshire and further afield attended Big Bang STEM 2017, tempted by its array of fun interactive educational challenges. It was one of a number of rally-associated free-to-view attractions open to local schools, families and the public.
Ifor Williams Trailers which has manufacturing sites at Cynwyd, Corwen, Ruthin and Deeside Industrial Park, brought along a giant jig saw to show youngsters the intricacies of cutting out different shapes for bespoke designs.
It held well attended Computer Aided Design or CADworkshops, a trailer lighting challenge and an against the clock competition requiring pupils to assemble a spring onto a full-sized axle.
Ifor Williams Trailers show manager Dafydd Jones and North Wales-born primary school teacher Hannah Davies, who helped man the exhibition, agreed it was an outstanding opportunity to encourage more youngsters into engineering and technology careers.
Big Bang STEM was open to all those visiting the famed Rally Village, a central hub of the Daysure Wales Rally GB. Located next to Toyota on Deeside Industrial Park, it is where top rally teams were based for the duration of the tough motorsports challenge which is part of the FIA World Rally Championship.
Dafydd said: “It was a fantastic way to showcase our unique brand of skills and it was heartening for us to be able to fire the interest and enthusiasm of the children attending.”
Hannah added: “I had a brilliant time. This sort of event really engages young minds and gets them thinking about the array of possibilities open to them when they leave school.
“Not everyone has the aptitude to follow an academic university path, but there are plenty of other routes they can go down and the Big Bang exhibition really displayed that, increasing awareness about apprenticeships and vocational jobs, as well as the more traditional further education courses.
“It was fascinating to see how different children responded to our technical challenges. It was mostly the quieter ones who made a bee line for the CAD workshops, while the more vocal among them loved the jig saw exhibit.”
Though she now teaches at Coxheath primary school in Kent, Hannah formerly taught at Ysgol Maes Y Felin, Holywell, and she grew up in Denbighshire where her parents, Bridget and Wyn, still live.
She worked as a project manager with Ifor Williams Trailers before qualifying as a teacher and she still regularly returns to Wales to help the firm with exhibitions at eisteddfods and other events.
She said: “This event was particularly interesting for me as it was so focused on engaging with primary age children.”
Dafydd agreed, saying: “Most of the children were either at primary schools or in the early years of high school, which is a great age to trigger and develop their interest in the core subject skills which the STEM event is promoting – science, engineering, technology and maths.
“These children will potentially be our future new recruits so events which install in them a desire to learn more about these subjects are invaluable to us as local employers as well as having clear educational benefits for the children themselves.”
Also helping with the exhibition were Ryan Flanagan, a work placement student with IWT, and Geraint Williams, a design engineering graduate who was an IWT work placement trainee before securing a full time job with the company.
Dafydd said: “It was good to have former work placements on hand to talk to the children directly about their experience of working with us and further progressing their technology skills.
Other big name manufacturers and organisations who exhibited at Big Bang STEM 2017 included Airbus, Tata, JCB, Comtek, and the RAF.
The event’s importance to schools and industry was underlined with a visit by Welsh Government Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure, Ken Skates, who said it was an excellent opportunity to fuel young people’s imaginations and get them interested in the subjects they need to become part of the nation’s growing automotive and performance engineering sectors.
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