Essex-based Packpacker forges skills link with Anglia Ruskin University

Students and lecturers from Anglia Ruskin University viewing robot technology at Pacepacker Services

Students and lecturers from Anglia Ruskin University viewing robot technology at Pacepacker Services. - Credit: Archant

Packing equipment designer and manufacturer Pacepacker Services, based at Great Barfield, near Braintree, has teamed up with Anglia Ruskin University to help develop engineering talent.

The aim of the link is to help the university understand the skills needs of engineering business, in anticipation of a future skills shortage in the sector.

According to the Royal Academy of Engineering, the demand for graduate engineers exceeds demand across all sectors of the economy, with skilled engineering roles currently accounting for 8% of the UK’s workforce.

Other sources suggest that the Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) sectors will need 160,000 engineers, scientists and technicians each year by 2020.

“We haven’t seen a skill shortage yet, but the figures imply there will be a skills shortage of people who want to get into engineering,” said Pacepacker’s business development manager, Paul Wilkinson.

“Therefore it’s in everybody’s interest to show people from an early age that engineering doesn’t mean having to stand over a machine and that there are many different interesting and viable career options.”

The two organisations first connected in August on social media when Ahad Ramezanpour, a research fellow at Anglia Ruskin, invited Pacepacker to join the Chelmsford Engineering and Innovation Community he was creating.

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The partnership allows Anglia Ruskin to find out exactly what engineering businesses need in terms of employee skill sets in a changing environment.

“The employability of our students after graduation is important and arranging visits with local businesses is one way of doing this,” said Ahad. “It also improves the quality of learning. Having input into our courses from companies like Pacepacker helps ensure they meet the needs of industry.”

Initially the two organisations meet at this year’s PPMA Show, where Pacepacker invited Anglia Ruskin to find out more about the company and get a feel for the packaging machinery industry.

“It was very much a joint thing. Anglia Ruskin want to approach companies for support and a perspective of real world applications, while Pacepacker can offer placements for interns and graduates,” said Paul.

Now, 10 students and lecturers from the unniversity have visited Pacepacker to receive an introduction to packing, palletising and robot handling systems. Live equipment demonstrations and presentations were made by representatives from Pacepacker’s robot technology partners FANUC UK and Festo.

Anglia Ruskin stresses that seeing how engineering theories are applied in real business applications improves student’s understanding of the academic modules.

“The feedback we received was that everyone felt they got something from it,” says Paul. “After Christmas we will try and formalise our plans more. There are many opportunities and we look forward to working together in the future.”

These include a careers fair in February, potential student internships for particular projects and industrial placements for undergraduates as part of Anglia Ruskin’s engineering courses.

Over the years, Anglia Ruskin has been involved in many research collaborations with local businesses, often helping to improve existing products or processes, and with such collaboration sometimes qualifying for grant funding, this is another area both organisations hope to explore going forward.

“We are also getting involved with a STEM project with a college in Chelmsford as well to try and get involved with students at a younger age,” said Paul.

Ahad added: “The Pacepacker experience is really useful in helping us add practicality to our courses. They are a company with a futuristic view backed with strong organisation, and have been a really good example of a local company and university working for mutual benefit.”