An all-female team of apprentices harnessed ‘Girl Power’ to design and install a hot water system capable of running a shower and emerge as the winners of The Big Rig – a low carbon challenge organised by Northampton College.
The girls narrowly beat a team of students studying science, technology, engineering and maths-related subjects in the final of the competition which has formed part of the College’s Igniting The Spark initiative.
The challenge saw teams compete to install a solar powered water system on a large scaffolding platform at the college’s Booth Lane campus.
It consisted of a mixture of practical and theoretical sessions linked to the curriculum, with a strong focus on health and safety. Teams were judged on a range of set criteria including how well they understand and plan the project, economical use of materials, design of a rain water collection system, waste management process and how effective they were as a team.
Paul Nelson, from sponsors Kier, said: “There is a major skills gap in the construction industry and events such as The Big Rig are vital in inspiring the next generation, giving students an opportunity to get hands-on and gain invaluable experience of a replicated workplace environment.
“It’s been fantastic to see the students working as a team to solve problems to the challenges they were presented with. Their work was extremely impressive and it’s great to see the future is in such good shape.”
Hands-on activities enhanced pupils’ problem solving skills and improved communication, team-working and leadership skills.
Amy Ball, a business apprentice who formed a part of the winning team, said: “It was brilliant to take part in The Big Rig, which is unlike anything I’ve ever done before. It made me think about things in a completely different way and has improved my teamwork, communication and leadership skills. I’ve learnt a lot and made new friends along the way.”
Pat Brennan-Barrett, principal of Northampton College, said: “The Big Rig was an opportunity for young people to showcase their own ideas and ways of working. We want to create a future workforce capable of thinking for themselves, solving problems quickly and efficiently and using technology to create innovative new ways of doing business.”
The Big Rig follows on from two previous ‘Igniting The Spark’ workshops held in conjunction with the UK Space academy, which has seen students from seven Northamptonshire schools take a voyage of discovery to unearth the secrets of the solar system and find out more about the science of space.
Northampton College has recently revealed its proposal for a £4.75million Advanced Construction Engineering (ACE) Centre at Booth Lane, which will help train the next generation of construction industry professionals including builders, plumbers, carpenters and decorators and teach pioneering new techniques aimed at equipping future workers with the very latest skills.
Alongside courses which focus on craft skills there will also be courses at Level 3 for those looking for supervisory, technician or management careers in the sector, such as in Civil Engineering, Building Services Engineering, or Project Management.
Building work on the centre, which will include a revolutionary ‘Digital Lab’ featuring a Virtual Reality classroom, 3D printing facilities and industry-standard workshop equipment, is scheduled to get underway next summer.