Nissan has found a way of opening up the world of automotive engineering and manufacturing to young minds.
Inspiring the next generation of talent, the Nissan Skills Foundation at the Sunderland Plant is designed to fuel passions for vehicle design, engineering and manufacturing, with a heavy focus on STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).
The foundation works with schools to deliver programmes that make daunting topics such as the engineering behind an electric vehicle fun, encouraging children to consider careers of which they may have never dreamed. The dedicated team at the Nissan Skills Foundation delivers sessions that challenge any notion that working in the automotive industry is heavy and intimidating by opening young eyes to the host of jobs that exist behind the cars they see on the road.
Sessions at the Nissan Skills Foundation allow children to 'learn through doing' by building a car from a LEGO set on a mini production line, exploring elements such as quality, removing waste and highlighting improvements.
The drive to international influence
Dave Hutchinson, who runs the Skills Foundation at the plant for Nissan said: "Manufacturing is ingrained in the North East's identity, and we created the Nissan Skills Foundation in 2013 to inspire potential young manufacturing and engineering talent throughout the region. The dream was that one day they'd come and join us – and I'm proud to say it's a dream that has come true!"
"We took our initial inspiration from Nissan's Monozukuri Caravan education programme in Japan and started with three different programmes for children aged 13-14. Our initial pilot was 140 children from three schools.
"But it very quickly got bigger, and we started to receive higher demand from schools across the region and this year we've celebrated welcoming our 80,000th child through the doors!"
Involving the local community in the automotive world
The Foundation hosts events specifically for girls led by female Nissan employees. These events are not just centred around cars but also teach important life skills such as how to prepare for job interviews. The GIMME programme (Girls in Manufacturing, Monozukuri and Engineering) is a bespoke initiative by the Foundation highlighting opportunities in the automotive industry that are achievable for girls.
Claire Pickering and Lois Heywood are two former Foundation participants who are now pursuing successful careers as part of the Nissan team. Both were introduced to the world of STEM at a young age through the Foundation, and both were inspired by meeting and learning from female role models at Nissan. Now the pair have taken on the role of the inspirers, encouraging the youngsters of today to discover a career in the automotive sector.
Claire, a Trainee Maintenance Apprentice in the Press Shop at the Sunderland plant, reminisces about where her journey with Nissan began. "I became involved with the Nissan Skills Foundation at the age of 17, when I discovered my interest in computer science, technology at school. The programme gave me the opportunity to get a first-hand view of the different roles at Nissan and to interact with women who work at the plant."
She added, "After completing the GIMME programme, my goal was to pursue a career at Nissan, so I applied for the Maintenance Apprenticeship. I am so grateful for the opportunities and life skills I've acquired thanks to the Nissan Skills Foundation."
Claire Pickering, Nissan Trainee Maintenance Apprentice and former Nissan Skills Foundation participant
Lois' journey has come full circle. She was 11 when she attended an inspiring foundation course – and is now a foundation trainer. "I attended the Monozukuri Caravan event when I was in Year Six, which inspired me to learn more about the automotive industry," she said.
"Now I work with children on the different courses the Nissan Skills Foundation offers, including the Monozukuri Caravan course. I love my job because I can empower young girls to discover careers at Nissan in the same way that I was inspired as a child."
Drive towards sustainability
What's next for the Nissan Skills Foundation? As Nissan Sunderland charges towards electrification and sustainability after being announced as the flagship EV36Zero hub, courses at the Foundation are evolving to reflect this environmental mission. The content for new programmes at the Nissan Skills Foundation focuses on a sustainable future and a zero-emissions world. This work is already underway as the team at the Foundation has developed a sustainable environment module for children between the ages of 6 and 11 and are in the process of creating one for secondary children (11-16 years old) to continue to spread awareness of how to protect the planet.
Dave Hutchinson has the final word: "We've inspired 80,000 minds, but that's just the start. Our electrified future is exciting, and we know our foundation will continue to play a vital role in inspiring the talent of the future that will take us there."
To learn more about how your school or child can participate in upcoming Nissan Skills Foundation activities please contact: NissanSkillsFoundation@nissan-nmuk.co.uk