Harlow College engineering centre ‘the most remarkable you’ll ever see’ claims MP Robert Halfon

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FEATURE writer Lois Barker visited HAMEC to interview tutors, students and Robert Halfon to discuss the success of the centre and the importance of recruiting girls into engineering.

The Harlow Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering Centre (HAMEC) is a cutting edge centre that provides students across the region with training alongside high-tech employers who help develop their skills.

With the support of Essex County Council and South East Local Enterprise Partnership, Harlow College has been able to open a £11 million building that gives students the chance to learn all about aerospace engineering, advanced manufacturing, electrical engineering and much more.

Robert Halfon, Harlow MP, who visited the centre recently, maintained:  “It is the most remarkable centre you’ll ever see.”  He went on to mention that he thoroughly enjoys visiting Harlow College as he believes it is the best in England, Halfon goes on to say that there needs to be more centres similar to the HAMEC because, “It gives hundreds of young people the chance to learn engineering and manufacturing and climb the education ladder.”

It also provides amazing opportunities for students; Formula 1 has invited the students of HAMEC to the National Finals of its competition. The requirements ask them to design the fastest F1 car; they will have to create it, design a pit stop and gain sponsorships to help with funding their projects.

When Lois Barker spoke to the students about the potential of winning, they expressed a lot of excitement stating it was a rare experience.

“We get to travel to Singapore and loads of other places and we’re lucky to get this opportunity,” said Tom Stokes, the Head of HAMEC who added that he believed his student would do well as they were “At the top of their game.”

When it comes to the centre Tom revealed he had a lot of involvement in getting the equipment, and was grateful to have had close ties to HAMEC supporters who donated tools so the students could benefit from the most modern machinery.

Female engineers are a rare find and Harlow College is trying to tackle this. Tom believes that maybe targeting secondary schools with the STEM project is too late and that primary schools could be a better way of getting young girls interested in manufacturing.

Level 3 Manufacturing Engineering student Tierney Johnson said, “Just do it! There’s always a cry out for females here.” Tierney found interest in this subject in Year 10 after doing work experience at Airbus Aeronautics Company with her dad, which she says, taught her a lot and was really enjoyable. There is even a chance that they will be the sponsors for her F1 project along with her group members, Sam Wilson-Daines, Aiden Thorne and Holly Lofthouse who are all impressive students with dreams of working for companies such as Ford and Network Rail.

Holly Lofthouse and Tierney both agree that the college and centre have been more than welcoming to female students and have never been doubted by staff or their peers and spoke positively about the course and what is has taught them.

There is a general consensus amongst the group that more centres like this one need to be seen in England. It is very rare to find gender diversity within these subjects and the female students at Harlow College are hoping that their work will inspire young girls to take a chance and apply for Engineering subjects.

With all the opportunities that the HAMEC has provided for these students it is important that there are more chances for females to get involved.

Tom Stokes said, “I want to start at primary schools not secondary. That’s too late. We want to show that it is not male dominated, the women here do fantastic.”

The courses have a STEM project for secondary school girls to show them what other options they have such as science, technology, engineering and mechanics/manufacturing so they can try something new. Tom believes that a lot to do with the lack of females is because it is seen as a “dirty trade or a course you do when you don’t have good core grades,” so it isn’t as inspiring to them or taken seriously. Hopefully this will soon change, as the female students couldn’t be happier with what they have been given and achieved throughout the years they have been there and the tutors definitely want to appeal to more women interested in this career path.

Engineering is an impressive career path that needs many more talented students to involve themselves in and show off their talents. Tutors and students have got a positive mind-set at Harlow and hope to see more facilities like HAMEC being built and accessible to everyone worldwide.

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