Marie Cooper, Parker PEGL
Marie Cooper is a Better Learners Better Workers Business Champion working with Bradfield School. Recently promoted to Plant Manager at President Engineering Group (PEGL), now part of global manufacturing giant Parker Hannifin, Marie is convinced of the value of the Better Learners Better Workers programme for addressing the major skills gap in engineering:
“We need talented young people to secure the future of our industry, but we don’t just want high grades. It’s all about the wider skill set. That’s what Better Learners Better Workers is all about.”
As part of her role as a Business Champion, Marie is linked to a particular school and works with students aged 13-16. Activities include interviewing students, providing information and advice about the world of work, setting project challenges, giving feedback on student work and helping students reflect on the skills they are learning. Marie is supported by Donna Barker, Assistant Headteacher at Bradfield School, and by other key staff.
Marie comments: “I love it. The enthusiasm of the students is inspiring. They just need a better understanding of the world of work.
“The highlight so far was definitely last year’s project for the regional ‘Get up to Speed with Engineering & Manufacturing’ event. We entered the Innovation and Design Challenge with a team of year 9 pupils on the Better Learners Better Workers programme, from our partners Bradfield School, and set them the task of designing a portable display stand to show scaled-down models of our valves. It was a real-life issue for us as our products are too large to transport and show at exhibitions. Pupils worked with our apprentice engineers but they came up with the designs and made most of the display themselves. It was fantastic – they were full of ideas and worked really hard. In fact, on one occasion, I discovered a parent had been sitting outside in our car park for over an hour because his son was so engaged he didn’t want to stop what he was doing!”
The joint PEGL Bradfield School team won the Innovation and Design Challenge and now the portable display stand sits proudly in the Parker PEGL reception area.
In addition to undertaking projects, students also visit Parker PEGL on work experience, usually for a week. They have half a day in each department to show them all the different roles and the variety of opportunities in an engineering company.
“Teenagers often have a poor image in the press but this programme has shown me that there are some really good young people out there. The students from the Better Learners Better Workers programme have inspired our staff and made them want to share their skills. Their enthusiasm and excitement is infectious and it’s actually encouraged our staff.”
Marie feels that the Better Learners Better Workers programme benefits the business as well as the students and the school. Business Champions from across the city meet together regularly to share ideas and receive support, so the programme provides a valuable opportunity for organisations to network.
“The Better Learners Better Workers programme has opened doors for us. It has helped to raise our profile and given us an opportunity to collaborate with others from our sector to address a problem that we all have – how to develop talented future recruits at all levels.”