Taking up the ventilator challenge

Engineering apprentices have been helping companies produce more than 60,000 ventilator parts for the NHS in the face of increased demand during the coronavirus pandemic.

Over the past five weeks, 14 level 3 and 4 apprentices who are employed by Shipley-based firm Produmax and who train at Keighley College have been producing components for a consortium of manufacturers that includes the likes of Rolls-Royce and Formula 1.

Paul Birtles, operations director at Produmax, said: “The apprentices have been a phenomenal help during these challenging times. It’s brilliant to see them involved in the whole process of the ventilator components, from using advanced equipment to quality checking.”

The apprentices have been supporting the manufacturing of component parts using advanced computer numerical control equipment and employing subtractive and additive machining techniques.

Birtles stated it has been “incredibly rewarding” to see how much the students have developed since starting their apprenticeships.

Max Weatherhead, one of the level 3 apprentices, told FE Week he was “proud to be part of something that is helping save lives”.

Ronnie Magee, deputy head of Keighley College, added: “It’s fantastic to see a local company supporting the NHS during these challenging times.

“Our apprentices are thrilled to be able to make a difference and assist with producing ventilator components.”

Two other level 3 advanced engineering apprentices from Keighley College have also been assisting in the production of ventilator components at Yorkshire Precision Engineering as part of the VentilatorChallengeUK consortium.

Both apprentices have been supporting the production of parts by setting tooling and monitoring performance and consistency.

Lynda Laybourne, sales and finance director at Yorkshire Precision Engineering Ltd, said: “We’ve been working tirelessly around the clock to make this happen; the apprentices’ work ethic is admirable and we’re incredibly proud that they can help us fight against the virus.”

In total, the firm has produced 8,000 brass-turned parts and 4,000 plastic mill parts, which will be distributed to hospitals across the country.