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IMechE President visits Yorkshire Eastern Area.

On the 13th February 2019, the East Yorkshire committee were delighted to welcome current President of the IMechE, Tony Roche FREng FIMechE CEng BSc Hon DTech, on his visit to the Region.

Tony commenced his daytime tour by visiting Howdens Joinery in Howden, East Yorkshire. Howdens Supply Division manufactures kitchen and joinery products for sole distribution through its 650+ depot network. The manufacturing facility located in Howden is one of their two purpose built state-of-the-art facilities. The operation is an excellent example of mass customisation and effective management of complexity and shipping logistics. Howdens have made significant investment in automated plant and machinery to produce a quality assured product manufactured to ensure the depots are an in-stock business. Facilities include a design studio, automated manufacturing plant, quality assurance function and a complex warehouse and distribution centre. Howdens are rated Best–in-Class in terms of environmental credentials taking wood stock from certified sustainable sources and recycling 97% of waste produced from their process.

The visit began with a business overview provided by Richard Falkingham (Head of Strategic Planning and Development) before undertaking a full tour of their state-of-the-art factory complex.  The scale of Howdens business is somewhat to behold, and Tony commented that "their rate of business expansion is a great example of future prosperity in the area".

The visited was rounded off with a short gathering with Howdens engineering apprentices through which Tony took the opportunity to impress the importance of joining an engineering institution to achieve recognition for their skills and to ensure their continuing professional development is upheld throughout their careers.


The next stop was HETA (Humber Engineering Training Association).  HETA is a not-for-profit charity ‘Group Training Association’, established in 1967 by a group of local companies to bridge the gap between industry and education. HETA is renowned as the leading engineering training provider in the region. There are essentially two aspects to their business - upskilling of people already in the workforce and the recruitment and training of apprentices who are about to enter the labour market. They believe that their current model of employer engagement and training delivery has value in selected international markets with particular emphasis on working with existing local partners to deliver training and provide technical expertise on capacity building projects.

Tony, who revealed it is now 60 years since his own days as an apprentice, told the young learners at HETA that the changing world is bringing more opportunities than ever, but he urged them to embrace the concept of lifelong learning.

As HETA was the only industry training organisation on the schedule for the day, Tony made the most of the opportunity by addressing learners in the purpose-built lecture theatre and by chatting to the young people and their instructors over lunch and in the mechanical, electrical, fabrication and welding workshops.

HETA, which also has sites at Stallingborough and at Foxhills, Scunthorpe, relocated its Hull centre to the former premises of Eltherington Group during summer 2018. It was supported in the move by Hull City Council’s Economic Regeneration team and by the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), which secured £1.3-million from the Local Growth Fund through the Northern Powerhouse. Tony said it was money well spent.

He said: “This is an absolutely fantastic set up with top class facilities which enable these young people to get a real grasp of the basics of engineering. They are learning how to do things, how to do things safely and how to recognise the discipline of work as well, going to work, getting on with their mates. They are preparing for life as engineers and for life in its widest sense. The young people I have met are really enterprising, enthusiastic and aware of the privilege they have to actually get onto this course. We need more facilities like this.”

He told the apprentices: “You have got a lifetime in front of you of learning, learning, learning because technology is changing so rapidly now. You might have 5, 10 even 15 jobs during your career. The demand for engineers is enormous wherever you go in the country and we are starting to see wages going up because there are not sufficient engineers to meet our country’s needs.”

His comments were reinforced by Dr Malcolm Joslin. The Chair of HETA, who worked at BP for more than 30 years, told the learners of the importance of joining such professional organisations as the Institution.

He said: “It’s great that the Institution recognises that HETA continues to strive to provide excellent training opportunities for companies in the area. We very much recognise the importance of professional organisations and we actively promote to our young learners the importance of getting involved with bodies such as the Institution.
It is also important in terms of your progress and where you want to be in five, 10 or 20 years. Being an engineer is not just about having tools in your hand. There is a whole range of career options and senior opportunities for you to grow into. There are some fantastic opportunities for you to build a career in the Humber region because we desperately need engineers and this is a fantastic part of the world to become an engineer.”

 The final visit for the daytime schedule was to Siemens Gamesa.  Their £160 million investment in wind turbine production and installation facilities in Yorkshire is based at Alexandra Dock. Their investment continues to provide a huge boost to the UK’s offshore wind industry and the Humber region. The combined investment from Siemens and ABP of £310 million has created up to 1,000 jobs directly, with additional jobs created during construction and indirectly within the supply chain.  Inside its cavernous halls sit the 28-tonne blades under construction, made of balsa wood and fibreglass. Hundreds will be built there each year, destined for bigger, more powerful offshore windfarms in deeper waters up and down the UK’s coast. Surprisingly, the manufacturing process is almost entirely done by hand, rather than robots. The workforce includes former supermarket workers, aerospace industry experts on second careers and builders who learned fibreglass skills locally from fitting bathrooms and making caravan parts. The blades are precisely moulded, finely finished and then painted.  Siemens have a unique patented construction process which allows them to mould the blade as one hollow component with no seam lines or joints.

The visit provided the President with the opportunity to see the huge amount of progress since the previous visit of an IMechE President (Mark Hunt OBE) in January 2015 to what was essentially a brownfield site at the time.  A full tour of the facilities shows the journey of a blade from prepping of the moulds to loading onto the transport barges alongside the factory. The visit was rounded off with an opportunity to meet engineering apprentices and graduates from across all operations.


On the evening of the visit, the University of Hull hosted over sixty delegates to an evening reception with the President at the University’s Canham Turner conference centre.  The evening began with a drinks reception which gave the delegates an opportunity to network against the a back drop of project poster presentations by 3rd year undergraduates from the University and exhibitions from Siemens Gamesa alongside representatives from the University’s Greenpower and Formula Student teams.  The evening was concluded with a President's Address which focused on innovation and the role that engineering plays in serving the wider society.

In a thankyou note later received, Tony Roche said:

“The three visits arranged for the day were excellent and demonstrated the very diverse range of engineering activities in the Region. The regeneration that was clearly demonstrated at Siemens Gamesa, along with the business expansion of Howdens Joinery were two great examples for future prosperity of the area.

The superb work being done at HETA to provide an ongoing supply of new engineering talent for local industry, along with the enterprise of the Hull University to provide further education opportunities, provides an important foundation for future prosperity in the East Riding.

 It was a pleasure to be accompanied by so many of the IMechE team from the East Riding and to have the opportunity to see the great work that the team is doing.”

The IMechE Yorkshire Region and the IMechE President extend our grateful thanks to the following organisations which supported the President’s Visit:

Furthermore, grateful thanks are also extended to all who attended and/or exhibited at the evening drinks reception at the University of Hull.

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