Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing Task Group minutes: November 2022

Meeting details

Date: Wednesday 16 November 2022

Time: 9.30am to 11am

Location: Microsoft Teams

See the list of attendees and apologies for this meeting.

Actions arising from this meeting

Actions arising from this meeting
Number Description Responsible/Lead
1 If interested in chairing/co-chairing the group, contact skillseastsussex All interested
2 Take forward separate employer/ESCG meeting on course ER/SBu
3 Consider venues for in-person/hybrid meetings for 2023 Secretariat/Chair

1 Welcome, Introductions and Apologies

SBu welcomed all to the meeting, particularly those attending for the first time. Alongside PK from Picross was CT, and JH was with DW. MB was in her first week at Brightwells, so this formed part of her induction as well as attending on behalf of Kirsti Peters. Introductions were made and apologies noted.

SBu reiterated that he is only chairing today while we continue to look for an employer chair.

ACTON 1: If interested in (co)chairing please confirm this by contacting

2. Review of Previous Minutes and Actions

Most actions relate to the CNC (Computer Numerical Controlled) proposal, this is on the agenda.

Work is on-going around CPD (Continuing Professional Development) with the aim to link into a County-wide event bringing together teaching staff and employers from construction, engineering and manufacturing to demonstrate the latest practical skills used by employers.

The Net Zero group did not meet in October due to the uncertainty around national government policy in light of changing prime ministers. The group shall meet in 2023, but all sector/industry Task Groups are looking at embedding Net Zero across their work.

3 Update on potential CNC (Computer Numerical Controlled) Offer for unemployed and employed

SBu gave some brief background on this proposal. At the prior task group meeting, due to the way the AEB (Adult Education Budget)’s funding works, initial proposals for a CNC course were not viable. However, following collaborative work between ESCG and East Kent College a new offer has been designed that subject to min group sizes, will be viable. CNC has been identified as an area that employers have said they are struggling to recruit to. There are multiple employers using CNC across East Sussex.

ER gave an update following work with East Kent College. They have developed a four-week level 1 Engineering Diploma. The proposed course consists of engineering elements (using maths and science, safety, computer aided design basics, an introduction into work in this area) and employability skills (customer service, communications, digital, working with others).

The aim would be to deliver the course during a half-term (February 2023 at the earliest) using college on-site equipment.

ER asked for employer feedback on the content. The target audience would be job seekers so there would need to be sufficient referral numbers, but the course would be open to existing employees as well.

MaK said that it is a good initial proposal. DW echoed MaK in that this is a good start but likely to be complex for someone with no engineering background.

DW continued that the course needed to be very mindful of what the course claims to be able to achieve in the limited time. A ‘setter’ for example could have four to six years industry experience. This four-week course still requires a lot of investment from an employer post course in terms of additional internal training to have someone ready for ‘factory floor’ work. Sending one’s own staff is possibly helpful, but if already employed, they will have covered such basics and would not need all of the content. Such staff would need a different approach to those from the JobCentre.

ER recognised this issue but in order for the course to be funded (i.e. no cost to the employer) they would need to attend the whole course. However, if an employer wanted to pay to access a part of the course that would be possible as well.

CT said that actual basics should include looking at measuring equipment, an understanding of quality assurance and some exposure to technical drawings.

DW suggested potentially look to gain private investment from manufacturers to support the course costs. ER advised that DWP are looking into this, and DC confirmed he has had exploratory talks with manufacturers.

MaK suggested that employers in the group visit the venue (the Ore campus) and discuss what sort of offer can realistically be delivered, satisfying employers entry level needs while being viable for the college to deliver.  

ER said that staffing any CNC/Entry Level Engineering course will also need consideration as employing staff on short term contracts for such complex delivery is very difficult due to teaching skills shortages in engineering. Someone has been identified for the CNC element but it is too early to engage until there is clarity on the course being agreed.

SBu queried whether the course could tie into existing study programmes, T-Level and apprenticeship programmes.

PL said that he did not think the unemployed would see a benefit unless directly linked to actual work. He agreed tying to existing college courses made sense. DBA advised that the current engineering students do make use of the CNC machinery during their studies.

DW suggested  continued employer and supplier engagement in a smaller group to work on CNC specifically.

ACTION 2: Take forward separate employer/ESCG meeting – ER/SBu

RH said that given it take years to train to a level of proficiency and apprenticeships can only supply so many people, the key will be raising awareness of the sector to increase participation levels. We need new courses as possible routeways for career changers which could be like the one proposed. DO reminded everyone that engaging with lifelong learning opportunities should not be overlooked. Brighton University start the level 4 technician programme next year which is a progression route for T levels and others.

4 Careers Hub Update

MR thanked all employers involved in Open Doors. More are welcome and virtual open doors can be considered if there are health and safety concerns at all.

ICan is the event for young people who prefer a quieter careers event and is aimed at those with SEN (Special Educational Needs). Many adults with SEN are keen to find employment and are often very reliable employees. Employers who can offer mock interviews and participate in other ways are welcome. 

ICAN is on Wednesday 8th March 2023 at The Towner, Eastbourne. Contact if interested.

5 Institute of Employment Studies Survey - feedback

MW gave a presentation and asked the group about the following areas:

  • Net Zero
  • New Technology
  • Cost of Living Crisis
  • Brexit and Covid
  • Future thoughts

Employers reported switching to LED (light emitting diode) lighting years ago. There was frustration expressed as ‘doing everything we can’ but the decline in manufacturing in the UK means importing from overseas, such as steel. Factories abroad may be coal-fuelled and have a high carbon footprint over which importers have no control.

Automation is already well-established in the sector. General view is that it will affect the skill levels of those needed, not reduce the numbers significantly. The lack of interest in perceived ‘difficult’ STEM subjects, especially locally means not as many young people entering the sector as employers would like.

No employers reported people leaving due to issues with the cost of travel to work, but many are local. Pay reviews have seen increases which were a bit higher than planned for a year ago. Most firms have no home workers in this sector. There is still high demand for work and an increasing need for staff that is expected to continue over the coming 5 years.

DW felt that Brexit coupled with the Covid pandemic had led to some realisation that manufacturing is needed and should be valued more in the UK. Value perceptions have shifted slightly, in favour of local products.

All commented that there had been a worldwide shortage of components and parts. This increased lead times as UK sources not found. Paperwork issues with Brexit have generally been overcome but are frustrating and increase costs.

RG said that employers need to engage with schools and colleges more. Open Doors visits are ideal which Volker Fitzpatrick do, they also support and encourage their subcontractors to take on apprentices. MeK said that Brightwells are looking to do more with schools and colleges. Retirement numbers are currently higher than the uptake in apprenticeships.

Other concerns for the future include the aging workforce leading to increasing skills shortages and energy costs. Remaining competitive when energy costs overseas are cheaper (as well as labour costs) is a real challenge. There is a desire to be greener but such initiatives are not necessarily rewarded by energy suppliers or the current tax system.

DO advised that it will be critical going forward for employers to engage on curriculum design for the future.

DBA asked about awareness of the OHM Energy/East Sussex College decarbonisation/green training hub. The Construction Task Group met there the previous week, so some were aware but not all. 

ACTION 3: Discuss with the training hub/new chair about holding a future task group meeting at the hub – Chair/Secretariat

6 AOB/Date of Next Meeting

The Skills East Sussex Board will have four, instead of three meetings a year going forward – these will be January, April, July and October 2023. The industry task group meetings are scheduled around these where possible. The Chair will be invited to attend as all are sector group chairs.

SBu advised that DM has ‘pencilled’ in early March, June, September and December for the Engineering & Advanced Manufacturing group’s quarterly meetings. She will need to agree these with the chair. Details will then follow.

Attendees and apologies


  • CT, Chris Turnbull, Picross Precision
  • DBA, Debbie Baldock-Apps
  • Business Development, East Sussex College Group
  • DC, Dermot Clarke, Employer Adviser, DWP
  • DO, David Oloke, Head of Technical Education and Apprenticeships, Brighton University
  • DW, Dan Wahnon, Business Development Manager, Technoturn
  • ER, Elaine Remon, Employability Operations Manager, East Sussex College Group
  • JH, Jonathan Hawkins, Technoturn
  • KM, Kathryn Mountford [part], Careers Consultant, University of Sussex
  • MaK, Matt Knight, Akrovalve Ltd
  • MeK, Megan Kirwan, Brightwells
  • PK, Paul Kirk, Quality Assurance Manager, Picross Precision
  • PL, Paul Lennard, Hivac Engineering
  • RG, Rachel Groves, Volker Fitzpatrick
  • Secretariat
  • SBu, Stephen Burkes, Skills East Sussex, Employability and Skills Project Manager,  Interim Chair
  • DM, Donnalyn Morris, Skills East Sussex, Project Officer Employability and Skills 
  • Apologies
  • GJ, Gareth Jones, Photek
  • GT, Geraldine Turton, Apprenticeship Manager, Brighton University
  • JS, Joy Sheen, General Dynamics
  • LA, Lawrie Alford, Technical Consultant, LATC Automotive UK
  • RJ, Rhiannon Jones, Recruitment Co-ordinator, Kurt J Lesker
  • SS, Steve Sefton, Technical Education and Apprenticeships, Brighton University
  • VPo, Vanessa Potter, Executive Director, Sussex Council of Training Providers