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Water giant pours £250,000 into new equipment

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A water giant poured £250,000 into new engineering equipment at Glyndŵr University.

The Wrexham University has enjoyed a fruitful seven-year relationship with United Utilities, reinforcing its ties with business and importance to industry. 

Employees from the UK heavyweight – which has waste and wastewater treatment sites across the North West - are currently studying on undergraduate degrees in Industrial Engineering – Automation, Instrumentation and Control, Automated Plant and Control Systems and an MPhil/PhD in Science, Engineering, and Technology.

The company also helped forge links between Glyndŵr and leading engineering and technology group Siemens, which kindly supplied the department with £125,000 worth of machinery at a reduced cost.

Reg Holme, Principal Lecturer in Electrical Engineering, said the union between Glyndŵr University and United Utilities is long-established and has produced impressive results.

He hopes other process-related sectors will see the benefits of teaming-up with the Welsh institution.

“Over the years United Utilities has donated and paid for up to £250,000 worth of new equipment, which has helped us to give their workers the best possible engineering training and education,” said Reg.

“We have an excellent relationship and they’ve helped us to develop our curriculum so the students are given exactly what’s needed for them to progress onto the next level of their careers.”

Among those studying at the University is 37-year-old James Robinson (pictured).

Originally from Scarborough and now living in Wrexham, he studied for a degree In Electrical and Electronic Engineering in 1994 before joining United Utilities 10 years ago and returning to Glyndŵr University to take on a PhD.

Now working as a senior ICA engineer, James encourages other companies to follow United Utilities’ lead and join forces with Glyndŵr to deliver courses specific to their industry.

He has worked closely with Reg since 2005, developing the Automation Instrumentation and Control (AIC) Foundation Degree.

“We’ve worked closely with Reg and the university over the years to bring through students and tailor the courses to their needs,” said James.

“It’s been so important for us to have that input and feed back to the engineering department what works and what doesn’t. This has had an impact on the company itself, helping staff to develop and grow.”

James says that United Utilities – a FTSE 100 water utilities business – benefits from Glyndŵr University offering “an excellent balance of theory and practical” that will attract students for many years to come.

He added: “The team at Glyndŵr worked hard to meet our requirement of block release (instead of day release for the Foundation Degree), which helped us.

“Jointly we developed the module outline after hundreds of hours of meetings over a three year period; the management team and I had extensive input into the content.

“The key to the FDEng and the BEng success was that Glyndŵr University recognised and understood the workplace skills which were transferable and had a dedicated mentor to visit employees in the workplace, which is common during apprenticeships, but not common at HE level.

“I have worked very closely with the department to attract funding into the lab facility, and over the last four years around £250,000 has been invested.

“Glyndŵr uses the same modern equipment students will find in their own workplace – I genuinely believe no other university in the UK/Wales has had such a close relationship with industry.”

United Utilities supplies three million households across the UK – as well as 200,000 businesses – with clean, clear water via its 184 reservoirs, 96 water treatment works, 575 wastewater treatment sites and more than 72,000km of sewers.

Employee Jim Birks says the support of management helped him to cope with the pressure of balancing a busy job with higher education, especially as his wife if also studying for a degree.

The 44-year-old has already successfully navigated a foundation degree, a BEng degree in Instrumentation and Control Systems Engineering and is now studying for an MPhil/PhD at the Wrexham site.

He said: “It’s been hugely interesting and, even with my age and experience, has helped me to develop both personally and professionally.”

Glyndŵr University’s Engineering department unveiled a raft of new cutting-edge machines during the summer.

As well as an £80,000 Hurco 5-axis CNC mill, the University has also invested in a 3D printer, a CNC lathe, student lathes, a welding bay, tools and benches, pillar drills and a complete refurbishment of the Aeronautical and Mechanical Engineering workshops.

The move comes after the department’s last cohort achieved a staggering 24 first class degrees. The average figure for UK students gaining a First on an aeronautical and mechanical engineering degree is roughly 10%; at Glyndŵr University the figure was nearer 35%.

The University’s prestigious engineering curriculum and the equipment - including a Merlin Flight Simulator and supersonic wind tunnel - has helped attract the cream of overseas engineering to Wrexham.


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