The McLaren Group welcomed a group of local teachers and students to the McLaren Technology Centre for a rare, behind the scenes glimpse into life as a McLaren engineer.
The tour was organised in conjunction with the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills as part of the Government’s ‘See Inside Manufacturing’ campaign – an initiative aimed at encouraging young people to see engineering as an exciting and viable career choice, while also increasing awareness of the importance of a strong manufacturing base to the future of the UK economy.
Having walked down the ‘boulevard’ of historic race cars from McLaren’s illustrious past, students were allowed inside McLaren’s normally top secret wind tunnel and workshops where Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton’s Formula 1 race cars are developed and built.
Students were then treated to a presentation from one of McLaren’s young Vehicle Dynamics Test Engineers, Brad Fincham, who explained what inspired him to get into the industry and what life as a racing and automotive engineer entails. This was followed by McLaren Automotive’s Design Director, Frank Stephenson, who gave an insight into the design features on the highly-acclaimed MP4-12C high-performance sports car.
With a greater emphasis now being placed on rebalancing the economy and rebuilding the UK’s manufacturing sector, an enormous premium is being placed on highly-skilled engineers and technicians. However, the UK faces a potentially acute skills shortage as evidenced in a survey by the Engineering and Technology Board which found that 49% of 7 to 11-year-olds thought it would be ‘boring’ to be an engineer and only 12% of 11 to 16-year-olds claim to have any knowledge of what a career in engineering would be like.
Both government and industry agree that changing negative perceptions of manufacturing amongst young people is essential if the UK is to rebalance its economy, foster the next generation of talented engineers and generate growth in our economy through high-value exports.
Ron Dennis, Executive Chairman of McLaren Group and McLaren Automotive, said:
“We’ve seen a worrying decline in our industrial base over the past two decades and this alarming trend must be reversed if we’re to create a more stable and prosperous future for our country. Changing the perception of manufacturing and engineering amongst students represents a critical first step in this process so I lend my full support to the ‘See Inside Manufacturing’ initiative.
“Education sits at the very heart of Britain’s opportunity to lead the world in advanced engineering. It is up to all of us, as employers, as parents and as the Government, to reignite in young people a sense of passion in studying Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, in order to open up more employment opportunities in those areas.
“McLaren aims to support future growth and inject new life into high-technology manufacturing and engineering jobs in the UK. We hope to inspire future generations of designers and engineers to work in these fields in the UK and I have no doubt that the bright young engineers working on our Formula 1 and sports car projects will show that Britain’s automotive sector still retains some of the best manufacturing and engineering talent in the world.”
Dr. Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, said:
“For too many young people the word manufacturing is a turn off. A worrying poll out last week found that only one out of ten children aged 11 to 14 thought that engineering was an important job and even ranked being a politician as a better choice of career!
“We are determined to shake up old fashioned views of manufacturing. Through the Government’s See Inside Manufacturing campaign and McLaren’s events at the McLaren Technology Centre, we will give young people the chance to see the exciting face of modern manufacturing which is highly skilled, high tech and highly paid.”
The students taking part in the tour were selected through the McLaren Manufacturing Challenge – a competition designed to get students thinking about engineering and manufacturing in a practical, hands-on sense by designing, and building, a motor-less vehicle to carry an object over a 10 metre distance in the quickest time possible.
Each school competing in the competition split its students into teams of five and gave them a month to design, test and manufacturing their vehicles before taking part against other teams in their school. The winning team from each school was then invited by McLaren to compete in a grand finale at the factory to determine an overall winner.
Woking College took the chequered flag with their ingenious mouse-trap propelled vehicle which completed the 10 metre distance in an impressive 2.28 seconds. Frank Stephenson and Brad Fincham oversaw the competition and were enormously impressed with the innovation and ingenuity shown by all the teams.
Frank Stephenson said:
“The McLaren Manufacturing Challenge is a great way to get students engaged with engineering and design. I’ve been hugely impressed by the enthusiasm and dedication with which the students have approached the design and manufacturer of their vehicles. They’ve obviously worked very hard and I applaud their efforts.
“At McLaren, we’re very fortunate to work in a place that has deliberately been designed to inspire and motivate us to strive to be the very best we can be and we hope some of that has rubbed off on the students.
“There’s nothing quite like seeing the very car (McLaren MP4/4) that the legendary Ayrton Senna drove to win the World Driver’s Championship in 1988 and, judging by the reaction of students and teachers alike, I think it’s safe to say that they found it an exciting and inspiring day.”