The Millennium Conference

The Millenium Conference

The Institute decided that it should celebrate the second millennium in some way and after discussion it was decided to hold a conference on 24th March 2000. The Notes of the Proceedings contained the following introduction:-

Aims & Objectives

Prompted by the death of a past President, Hugh Stapleton, the Institute wished to provide
a fitting tribute to his very considerable work in attracting young people into engineering.

In addition it was felt that, from discussions among members and from their own
experiences, a very positive benefit could be achieved by providing a platform for discussion
between representatives from industry and education to highlight the need for engineering
skills within the county, to appreciate the requirements of the employers, the training methods
provided and what difficulties are experienced in obtaining suitable applicants, and those from
education to indicate what they are doing already, what is available and what they would
suggest in raising the image of engineering.


From a very embryo thought in late 1998 when Hugh Stapleton died, the idea grew,
something like Topsy and eventually, from the many invitations, around 80 people accepted.
Very many of those delegates who contributed so magnificently, did so at quite considerable
inconvenience to both themselves , their organisations and their colleagues in industry and
educational establishments, and for this, we, within CIE express our most sincere thanks.

It had also been the desire to stage the event independently of any other organisation to
indicate the complete neutrality of the Cornish Institute of Engineers.

Cornwall College very kindly offered their conference suite in their Penhaligon Building,
which has ideal facilities and for which we are extremely grateful.

After an Introduction by the Chairman, Mr Andy Wetheralt four representatives from industry were invited to speak: A. W. F. Petherbridge of Imerys, Mr. R. Bointon of Teddington Controls Ltd, Mr. M. J. T. Ould of Rolls Royce and Mr. A. V. Francis of Microcomms Ltd. Each of these spoke briefly about their company and how it was involved in recruitment and training of engineers.

These were followed by four representatives from education and training; Mr. D. Prest for Comprehensive Education, Mr. B. Payne for Further and Higher Education, Mr. J. McFarland for the Joint Engineering and Training Scheme (JETS) and Professor K. Atkinson for Diploma and Degree Education. as with the industrialists each gave a brief résumé of the function of their organisation and its aims.

The conference then split up into four groups for discussions under M. K. J. Menadue, CIE; Mr. A. W. F. Petherbridge, Imerys; Mr. K. Withey, CIE and Mr. B. Payne, Cornwall College. The suggested group topics were:
● What type of engineer is required by employers? Are educational establishments producing what local engineering companies require?
● What do educational sectors/training organisations require from industry?
● How can local industry assist educational establishments within Cornwall?
● What help, fiscal or otherwise is required to fulfil the above points?
●Are there any vacancies currently available within engineering and what facilities and what facilities are available from the education sector to fill them?

A common theme emerging from all groups was the uncertainty of what was engineering meant to the general public and which inevitably affects recruitment. In addition all educational establishments needed to improve their communications with industry to help in getting the right skill-base .

The Conference was also addressed by the local MP Ms. Candy Atherton. She spoke of Government initiatives to raise the profile of engineering, as well as the expectation of Objective One funding from the EU

The Western Morning News on 25th April 2000 published the following concise report on the conference by Ms. June Lander which gives thumb-nail comments on many of the speakers and what they said.:

One delegate at the conference summed up the general feeling: “We just aren’t sexy or trendy enough “.

“It is difficult to compete with media studies and surfing courses”, another said.

“What student wants to take on a four year apprenticeship when a 21 year old tycoon is on his fifteenth million ? ” said a third.

One speaker suggested watching Formula 1 racing, which he thought was the “epitome of engineering “”should inspire young people.

The Team Pillips super yacht also received glamorous coverage, with Pete Goss, the skipper, summing up their problem as “one of engineering”.

But why, when the response from schools in Cornwall to the In Pursuit of Excellence Education Awards Scheme proved so successful, are engineers so worried?

David Prest, the Design and Technology adviser for Cornwall, passionately put forward his case for the schools:
“Every pupil studies design and technology as well as science from 5 to 16 years of age – it is not an option, it is a national requirement” he said
Waving the Yellow Book produced by the In Pursuit of Excellence Initiative, he said the contents epitomised exactly what they were trying to do. The industrialists on their side were very hard hitting and perhaps rather cynical.

“Degrees today aren’t worth the paper they are written on,” said Martin Ould, who works for Rolls Royce in Bristol but comes from Carharrack and was educated in Cornwall and at Bath University.
His firm, he said, is a major employer in the West. “If you are going to change the way engineers are formed, then Rolls Royce is interested”, he said.

Richard Boynton, of Teddington Controls Ltd, at St.Austell, which employs over 200 people with a turnover of £12M, said his firm was desperate to get local people, and model makers were “like gold dust”. He has to recruit outside Cornwall for electronic designers, but “up country people want up country salaries”, and then there were other difficulties with house prices, schools, and isolation. A graduate engineer himself, he said he had to build up his team from nothing.
He suggested that teachers should get industrial experience by secondment, and schools could recruit retired engineers to help them with their curricula
In the questions session which followed, various points emerged, Mr. Boynton, for instance, thought that basic scientific and engineering understanding was very low among students.
In answer to the question – are schools in step with modern industry ? Martin Ould thought that industry should ask “how can we help?  It’s not just up to the schools – it has to be two way.”

Barry Payne from Cornwall College Engineering centre said that the question was one of communication ” We don’t know precisely what it is you want – you don’t know what we can do for you “. He said the Joint education and training Scheme, which was a combination of work mentoring and in house tutorials, was working well.

It was also revealed that Cornwall is the only rural area eligible for Education Maintenance Allowance worth £30 a week.

Professor Keith Atkinson, Director of Camborne School of Mines, said that the school catered globally for mining students and consulted the industry to see what they wanted- but they still could not get enough applicants.
The answer, he thought, was because students did not have enough role models in school to inspire them into mining and mining engineering. “There is a world shortage of mining graduates, and when the school recently had a vacancy for a professor, they advertised seven times without success ”
Mining may have died out in Cornwall, but he deals with mines overseas which have a workforce larger than Camborne and Redruth combined.

Candy Atherton, MP for Falmouth and Camborne, said that the Government believed that the  engineering  community makes  a great contribution to the society of this country.
We need young people with ideas and inventions and there is much potential with the alternative energy programme in Cornwall.”