Innovative Minds

ITL’s Summer work experience placement program was profiled in the second Autumn 2015 issue of Oldham Business EdgeThe article has been reposted here in the format that it was originally published.

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Innovative Technology, a leading global provider of cash handling technology, has opened its doors to 21 school, college and university students – the largest group ever to join its student summer programme. Five of the group talked about their experiences of working life with Robbie MacDonald.

Now in its fourth year, the Innovative Technology structured work experience scheme offers students valuable paid experience through the summer and is part of the company’s continuing commitment to regional science and engineering skills development.

Responding to record levels of interest and strong growth in products demand meant the programme grew by over 60% this year, almost a third of whom were returning students.

The group – school leavers, college and university students – began work in early July and completed their programme at the end of August, gaining insights into the practical application of their studies and obtaining real work experience. The group worked across all parts of the business from recruitment and IT, to operations and mechanical engineering and were coached and mentored by the firm. Innovative Technology believes more businesses should follow its lead by offering meaningful, paid work placements.

David Gregson

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DAVID (18) from Middleton, was on placement at Innovative Technology for the first time. He recently finished a course at Bury College and is a friend of Colm Hayden, also from Middleton, who is an apprentice at Innovative Technology.

David worked on parts for a new automated checking line, i-Flow, which tests cash validation equipment units before they are shipped to customers. David used CAD  to design parts before creating the physical parts used on the new line.

“I’ve been using a different CAD package than I’m used to,” he said. “It was a bit difficult at first, because some of the commands are different, but I was soon able to master it and produce CAD drawings of a quality good enough to send out to manufacturers”

Having recently finished college, David is looking for an apprenticeship and has applied to several businesses for fabrication and welding roles. He explained “A friend told me about summer placements at Innovative Technology. He studies Mechanical Engineering and has had a couple of bad placements at other firms, but he recommended this one. “It’s great to get paid for the placement and we get a reference at the end, which is important for future job searches.”

“I enjoyed the time here. The atmosphere has been relaxed and there was a greater emphasis on working things out for yourself, expanding on skills learnt at college. For me, it’s been good to be in a workshop environment. I enjoy practical work and my tasks have been split 50-50 between computer-aided-design and practical testing. I had a good overall view of how the whole system works and was able to develop techniques I had only touched on at college.”

He concluded: “I’ll be having a good look round for apprenticeships”. “The opportunities are there – but I’ll have to really explore what’s available.”

Abby Camilleri

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 ABBY CAMILLERI (18) from Milnrow was on her third placement with Innovative Technology. Abby had just finished A-levels in Physics, Maths and English language at Holy Cross College in Bury and her mother, Karen, works in the company’s accounts department.

Abby said: “ In the first year I started on the shopfloor, repairing units”.

“My second placement was with IT, setting-up and fixing computers. That was really good because if I wasn’t working here, I wouldn’t really be using a computer and don’t really have that much experience with them. At home I mainly use my phone.”

For this third summer Abby worked with the science team, using maths and computer coding to develop validation machines, which receive and pay out coins.

Abby explained “I’m working with probabilities and making the machines self-learning – correcting errors as they work.”

“It’s good experience and will be useful for university . At school you are taught a syllabus to pass an exam, but here you are taught to really know a subject. You were encouraged to use your initiative but help was there if you needed it.

“Though school pupils go on work experience during Year 10, I think it’s pretty rare to get a really good experience, like this one was”.

.Abby was mentored by Dr Matt Strong and Peter Appleby, and she readily admits the placement has greatly helped her confidence, personal development and communication skills.

“At meetings we were encouraged to put our opinions across”.

“We had to give a presentation to managers and directors at the end of the placement which was a challenge, but also a really good experience – good for your confidence.”

Abby eventually hopes to study Physics at university before a career in teaching.

“I’d encourage other girls and young women to follow careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths” (the ‘STEM’ subjects), she says.

“Men are often seen as discoverers, but these subjects need more women.”

Richard Anderson

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 RICHARD ANDERSON (30), from Morecambe, is a former soldier and construction labourer, now studying mechanical engineering at Liverpool University.

This was his second summer at Innovative Technology, and each day Richard made a 140-mile round trip to the company’s HQ in Derker – that’s dedication for you.

“Last summer I worked in machine test development, helping to design and build units alongside the engineers,” he explained.” I could apply some of the things I learned at university and I found it very interesting.”

“This summer I was in the development team working on product improvements, updating assembly drawings, modifying existing parts and making test rigs.”

“Working as a labourer became really tiring. I was travelling up and down the county and sometimes had 12-hour shifts or night shifts. It was inconsistent too. I became interested in mechanical work and started looking for engineering courses and did some distance learning and went to night school, while working day shifts to get the required entry qualifications.”

“I’m optimistic about the future as a mechanical engineer. I’ve told people about Innovative Technology. It’s a good business to work for. I’d come back again if I could.”

“To any younger person who wants to become an engineer or designer, I’d say the most important advice is don’t skimp at school. Get good GCSEs and think about college, university or an apprenticeship. And don’t be put off by university fees. There are good careers in STEM subjects and there is plenty of work.”

Helen Tainsh

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HELEN TAINSH (20) from Glossop, Derbyshire, was on her second placement with Innovative Technology in two years. She attended Audenshaw School in Tameside and is now studying maths with computer science at Edinburgh Heriot Watt University. A friend, Kat Vincent, works in the company’s development team and recommended the initial placement.

Helen spent that first summer in the test department and was given tailored tasks linked to her maths and programming interests.

Her second placement was in the science team, using mathematical estimations and computer coding on a banknote verification project.

“I’ve done coding projects at university but it’s good to practise it here”.

“University summer holidays are three months long so it can be easy to forget some processes when you’re not using them each day. The placement is excellent for keeping my brain ticking along – and I like problem-solving. Some problems can be solved in an hour but I’ve been working on this particular one for two days.²

Helen’s dad is an electrical engineer and also codes for computers while her mum has a computer science degree and works in system development at Tameside Hospital.

Both have supported Helen’s interests and she added: “Families can play an important role in encouraging girls to consider STEM-related careers.”

Kaine Chapman

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KAINE CHAPMAN (17) from Derker, Oldham, was on his first placement at Innovative Technology and is studying A-level Chemistry, Biology, Geology and Computing at Oldham Sixth Form College.

Kaine’s placement in the science department focused on material sciences and the non-destructive testing of plastic components used in the company’s cash validation products.

“I’m researching different polymers and analysing their properties and defects that can arise from moulding, such as warpage. I am looking at wear-and-tear on polymer products, to develop products that last longer. I love it – it’s really interesting.”

His mentor, materials scientist, Afqad Arshad had a big influence and developed a summer internship plan tailor-made for the sixth-former.

Kaine explained: “When Afqad realised I had a chemistry background, he changed the entire plan to base it around my interests. I’ve got a week-by-week plan, which Afqad and I keep updating. When I got to the end of one research phase quicker than expected, he set me 20 more parts to investigate!”

“And I mentioned an interest in 3D printing, so that was added into my plan. This is the best work placement I’ve ever had.”

Aidan Towey, Managing Director of Innovative Technology said: “We’re delighted to have been able to expand the programme this year. As a global leader in technology we recognise the importance of high quality education at all levels, but that is just part of the equation. Young people need real experience of work too. Business leaders continue to complain that young people aren’t prepared for work, yet very few actually offer it themselves. Properly structured paid work experience is a win-win situation. Young people bring new ideas and a different perspective which can inject new life into projects. As an employer, we benefit from the opportunity to harness and develop any young talent we spot. I just wish more businesses would give it a go and open their doors to students of all ages. Meaningful, paid work experience needs to become the norm.”

Extracted from Oldham Business Edge Autumn 2015 Issue 2