Industry engagement with education thriving in Hyndburn

The world got a bit bigger this week for a group of school children from Belthorn Academy Primary School when What More UK invited them for a tour of their super high-tech factory.

Students, teachers and governors alike were amazed at the scale of the operation which turns out 5.6 million pieces of plastic a month. Rows of fully automated robotic arms and injection moulding machines the size of minibuses work together to ensure that orders can be fulfilled in lightning speed.

Nathan Griffiths, year 5 teacher and STEM coordinator at Belthorn Primary, commented: “Our rural village school provides the kids with an incredible learning environment, but industrial visits like this are fantastic.  I’m incredibly passionate about STEM and teaching it; it should always inspire, and with visits like today, children get to see how the topics I teach in the classroom everyday, transpire in their future careers.”

Yvonne Brown, chair of the governors at Belthorn Primary, explained about the purpose of the visit: “We’ve come here to inspire the children, and to give them some idea of the pathways that are there for them in employment, and it’s been amazing. I’ve got What More products at home, I think everyone does, but I didn’t know they were made locally, and I didn’t realise they’re doing upcycling, and recycling. It’s really good for the children to see, and we want to increase the ties we’ve got with industry.”

Since last year What More UK have diverted nearly 100 tonnes of plastic from landfill, repurposing it to make their upcycled and recycled ranges. The demand has been so strong that they have had to purchase scrap plastic from other manufacturers.

Also on the tour was Emma Nolan, vice chair of the governors of Belthorn Primary.

She said: “For us this visit is about children seeing opportunities early on. In a business like What More there are loads of jobs available from I.T., to Engineering, Marketing to HR. After the Amazing Accrington Education Summit, we started hearing about opportunities to have school children go round local businesses to help them understand how STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths] could fit into careers for them in later life.”

What More company director Tony Grimshaw, who has an OBE and is a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of World Traders, took the time to attend to the visitors personally.

“These children are our customers and colleagues of tomorrow. We are keen to show them who we are and what we’re doing,” he explained. “The other reason for this visit is that plastic products are much maligned by journalists using the word ‘plastic’ on its own, when what they really mean is ‘single-use plastic’.”

“Not all plastic is drastic,” says Mr Grimshaw, “some plastic is fantastic”.

“You tell the man with heart problems who’s had a stent fitted that all plastic is bad, he won’t agree with you, I’m sure. We’re not trying to change the kids’ opinions about what’s good or bad. We just want to present the other side of the story so they can make an informed decision. We’re proud of everything we do, from the Upcycled range, which is made from 95% post-consumer plastic, through to the kitchenware, the bakeware, and the garden products.”

What More UK hope this project will become a template for further engagement with local schools and also stimulate interest in their apprenticeship scheme. Currently the organisation has 5 local apprentices who have all been offered full time jobs on the back of their hard work and dedication.

For more information about What More UK, or about Wham products, please visit www.whatmoreuk.com