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A job for life? Exploring engineering skills with Metalcraft and HE Partnership


Team-working and design skills were challenged in a competition to build the best crane. Ben Crawley, Ben Free, Connor Hart and Keegan Philips were clear winners, designing and building a crane that held almost nine times its own weight before collapsing. 

The boys are all studying GCSE Engineering at Cromwell Community College and attributed their success to reading the brief before starting to build.  They are weighing up their options and deciding between aiming for university, college, or apprenticeships.

“We thought this would be a good chance to get out of school and do something different for the day,” they explained. “It has been amazing.”

Paul Beeson, Continuous Improvement Manager at Metalcraft, gave a talk about the opportunities available to skilled engineers and led the students on a tour of Metalcraft’s workshops and training centre.

“If it’s in steel or aluminium, and fabricated and welded, we can make it,” he told them. Metalcraft supplies components to the nuclear power industry and makes precision medical equipment, working mainly in stainless steel and aluminium. “Very few fabricators have the skills to work at this level,” Paul explained. “We are competing on our history, our reputation, our quality control, and the skill of our craftsmen.”

“The lack of skilled craftsmen is one of the biggest barrier’s to our growth as a business. If you’re interested in engineering but aren’t sure that A Levels are for you, an apprenticeship is a very good choice,” Paul added. “A good, skilled worker will rarely be out of a job.”

“We look for potential apprentices with good GCSEs, who look sharp, have got practical ability and an interest in developing it,” Paul explained to the young engineers. “Within 6 months you would be doing real work under supervision, and in 2 years we’d have you out on the shop floor contributing to the success of the business.”

Engineering teacher Miss Ward, who accompanied 7 students from Neale Wade Community College, said “Getting out and about to experience local industries like Metalcraft helps our students to focus on the reasons why they’re studying at school.”

Matt Diston, HE Partnership Co-ordinator at the University of Cambridge, said that the day was about having fun and practicing team-working, but also about providing information about routes into employment.

“You will have to stay on in education past 16,” he told the students in a final session summing up the day. “But this does not necessarily have to be at school. FE College, 6th Form College, and apprenticeships are all available to you. Some of these routes might take you straight into work; some might lead you to university later on.

“We hope you’ll start to connect the dots,” Matt added. “Why you’re studying the subjects you are at school, and the opportunities this can lead to. And the importance of developing your skills, not only your academic ones but practical skills like having a positive attitude and a readiness to work.”

  • Metalcraft recruit around 5 apprenticeships each year. To express an interest or find out more, write to Carly Brown at Metalcraft, Chatteris Business Park, Honeysome Lane, Chatteris, Cambridgeshire, PE16 6QY


  • HE Partnership is a collaborative project continuing the University of Cambridge’s work with local schools initiated under Aimhigher.  There is a particular focus within the programme on younger learners.

Year 10 students from Cromwell Community College and Neale Wade Community College enjoyed a day developing their engineering skills at Metalcraft in Chatteris organised through the University of Cambridge’s HE Partnership project.

Students tour the Metalcraft workshop in Chatteris

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