Bringing together a better future for UK manufacturing.
On Friday the 27th March after a short train ride from London Kings Cross and brisk walk through Letchworth town centre, we arrived at Weldability-Sif for the official opening of their Technology and Training Centre.
In recent times welding, along with the UK Manufacturing Industry as a whole, has slowed, almost to the point of vanishing. Although this is largely down to outsourcing to overseas manufacturers, there is also a perception that it is a profession for older generations, one that the young do not see as a plausible or accessible career pathway. However, Weldabity-SIF are doing all they can to change that.
Adrian Hawkins, Chairman of Weldability-SIF began the day by looking back on how the company has evolved during their 90-year history. He told the story of how during the Second World War, SIF-Tips, the company’s publication offering welding tips and ideas, changed its mascot from ‘Willie the Welder’, to ‘Winnie the Welder’ to help women adapt to their new found status as blue collar workers. Even during wartime, Sifbronze, as it was then known, were creating inroads to making welding accessible to all, regardless of age or gender.
The company has gone from strength to strength over the past decade, becoming Weldability SIF in 2007. With the new Weldability-SIF Technology and Training Centre, of which the offices of Unit 1 will be named ‘Peter’s House’, after Adrian’s late Father, this day was as much about looking forward as back. Due to the work of the Weldability-SIF foundation, apprenticeships in the sector are becoming far more accessible with training welding workshops opening in engineering colleges around the country. These welding workshop include the recently opened Llaneli based Coleg Sir Gar, and also the one at Goole College, based in Hull.
Sir Oliver Heald, the MP of the Letchworth Area officially opened the new building, before being taken on a tour round the new Technology and Training Centre. After a quick look at the new Showroom, we were then taken through at demonstration of how a Weldability-SIF Apprenticeship works. Initially an Apprentice will focus on the theoretical side of the vocation, using the facilities of the E Learning suite to be taken through the training and then take online tests to prepare for the practical side of the job. He or she will then begin honing their Welding skills in the Vitual Welding studio, enabling them to practice without being at risk of injury or worse and also saving wastage of materials at such an early stage. Furthermore this E learning is portable, and is currently making its way around schools in the Greater London Area.
We were a given the opportunity to chance our arm with the virtUweld welding simulator, and it is safe to say I’d need a fair few more lessons before I don the mask and have a crack at the real thing!
Another fascinating part of the tour was looking at the work of Extractability, the fume extraction division of Welability-SIF. New regulations, tightening up on the management of fumes has lead to improvements in Extractability products, with the Protecto line, having an extensive range of Extraction arms, fans, downdraft benches, hoses, filters, vacuum systems and filters, both fixed and mobile. Its great to see the company doing what it can to not only make the vocation accessible, but also developing their technology to make the future bright, with more green credentials.
After the tour was over, we were treated to an excellent lunch, and a chat with members of the Weldability-SIF family and staff. We would like to thank everyone there for making it an enjoyable and interesting day in Letchworth Garden City.
Report by Matthew Beard, Editorial Manager