Rachel Bunn, director of commercial, projects and community at East Coast College, discusses the successful new Engineering Bootcamp designed to support and strengthen the sector.

In 2022, East Coast College formed a collaborative partnership with New Anglia Advanced Manufacturing & Engineering (NAAME), the organisation responsible for maintaining a network of manufacturing groups across Norfolk and Suffolk.

Thirteen employer members based in Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth came together with the aim to revolutionise training and bolster local engineering recruitment through regional Skills Bootcamp funding.

These local employers raised a common concern that applicants often lack essential attitudes and positive behaviours. Additionally, once appointed, some of these applicants struggled to demonstrate work readiness.

These intangible qualities play a pivotal role in shaping the recruitment landscape and long-term retention within the sector. Due to the breadth of the sector, a new entrant may not only be unsure of what aspect they are interested in, but also what skills they have or can develop to suit certain job roles.

The employers embarked upon forging a new short-form model; one that would instil the recruitment process with the right blend of character, resilience and adaptability. Their joint efforts aimed to nurture a workforce that not only possessed technical prowess, but also embodied the spirit of collaboration, innovation and unwavering commitment.

It was agreed that students would engage in both learning activities to give them workshop and awareness skills, and aspirational experiences with tours of collaborator facilities.

Eastern Daily Press: Rachel Bunn, director of commercial, projects and community at East Coast CollegeRachel Bunn, director of commercial, projects and community at East Coast College (Image: East Coast College)
In the quest to bridge the skills gaps and elevate the quality of recruitment and delivery, East Coast College and employers started on a new journey with the key objectives of breaking the mould, becoming a symphony of collaboration, providing a pre-bootcamp camp and ensuring there is post-bootcamp employment opportunities.

In the planning stage, several barriers were identified, including individual work readiness, mental health, learning disability challenges, the length of time since unemployment and the initial knowledge of the engineering sector and required skills.

Barriers related to low income or reliance on benefits were addressed through the successful allocation of a regional grant from the JP Bland fund, specifically for bursaries covering transportation and college meals.

Through targeted tutorials and support over time, personal barriers that could have been seen within an interview and not fully understood would no longer hinder a job offer. Employers are also supported by tutors in understanding delegates’ strengths and translating these into workplace skills.

Ben, a student from cohort one, said: “I enjoyed the content of the course and getting a chance to do things I thought I would never get the chance to do, which is a great insight into what we could get involved in.

“The wealth of knowledge that the tutors have is amazing, I just want to show some appreciation for all their help on the Bootcamp course – I doff my cap to them all.”

The outcomes for cohort one were really successful, with 67% of delegates securing jobs related to their field. As for the current cohort two, 43% received job offers within the initial six weeks of the 11-week programme. It’s heartening to see such positive results.

For more information, visit eastcoast.ac.uk