Rishi Sunak operates an XYZ lathe as part of National Apprenticeship Week

A visit to Truro and Penwith College in Cornwall gave the Prime Minister the chance to try his hand at operating an XYZ 1330 TRAINER lathe. The visit to mark National Apprenticeship Week in February 2023 was an opportunity for Rishi Sunak and Akshata Murthy to appreciate for themselves the valuable work done by the college, which is rated as outstanding and attracts students from across the county and the South West. Level 3 machining apprentice Daniel Wright, who now works for West Pharmaceutical Services, guided Mr Sunak and Ms Murthy through face turning operations on the machine during their visit.

Truro and Penwith College is part of the South West IOT group whose members include the University of Exeter and the University of Plymouth, its campus benefitted from a £7.2 million investment allowing it to move to the new site two years ago. The modern buildings provide the ideal environment for the engineering school and, it has been so successful that a second site, the Ottery STEM and Health Skills Centre, is due to open near Bodmin in September 2023.

At the Truro site there are 11 manual lathes, XYZ 1330 and XYZ 1530, 2 XYZ RLX 1630 CNC lathes with ProtoTRAK® controls, 5 XYZ 2000 manual mills, 1 XYZ 1020 surface grinder, 2 RMX 2500 CNC mills with ProtoTRAK® controls, an offline PC based ProtoTRAK® CAM system and 1 XYZ 660 HD VMC with Siemens 828D control. The new Bodmin campus will have 6 XYZ 1330 manual lathes, 3 XYZ 2000 manual mills, 1 RMX 2500 CNC mill with ProtoTRAK® control, 1 RLX 1630 CNC lathe with ProtoTRAK® control and 1 XYZ 660 HD VMC with Siemens 828D control, duplicating the capabilities of the Truro campus.

Nick Tillyer, Institute of Technology Development Manager at Truro and Penwith College says, “The value of the manufacturing industry in Cornwall is now almost as big as tourism, so there is a huge demand for skills in the region. Major projects include emission free Lithium extraction from bore holes, significant deposits of ore have been found in the St Austell area; offshore wind with 10GW planned for 2030 and the Cornwall Space Cluster which includes such companies as Goonhilly Earth Station and Spaceport Cornwall.”

The college serves students studying from Level 2 which is apprentice technician level up to Level 5 which is HNC and HND. Students can go on to study for degree and higher degree qualifications at Plymouth and Exeter Universities as part of the South West IOT partnership. The CNC qualifications at Truro and Penwith were the first in Cornwall responding to demand and in collaboration with local industry. These start at Level 2 for machining while at Level 3 it moves on to manufacturing, CAD/CAM, materials, further machining and mathematics, 17 units in all. The college also spends time working with students to develop qualities and skills particularly in demand for young people entering industry such as communication, leadership, flexibility and problem solving.

One of the objectives of the college is to work, wherever possible, with local British industry. Nick Tillyer says, “We wanted to source our machinery locally in the UK. XYZ Machine Tools is quite close just outside Tiverton and it is one of the few companies that can offer manual lathes. The machines are known for their reliability and have a small footprint for their size making them ideal for training in our workshop environment. The range of machines and CNC controls enable us to offer advanced training up to 5-axis milling with rotary tables on the XYZ 660 HD VMC. Furthermore, XYZ machines are widely used by manufacturers in Cornwall so, our apprentices can go straight into industry using machinery that they are familiar with.”

As well as the XYZ lathes, mills and grinder, the college has a fibre laser and has an extensive range of welding equipment, offering Coded Welding training and testing. Nick Tillyer says, “We are trying to increase the sustainability of our courses, so we now produce commercial parts such as prototypes which reduces waste and increases our engagement with employers in the region. Having machines such as the XYZ mills and lathes, which are widely used in industry, makes this possible, generating more interest in what we are offering and developing more opportunities for our students.”

Nigel Atherton Managing Director of XYZ Machine Tools adds, “Working with education and encouraging young engineers is something which is very important to me. Truro and Penwith College’s achievements are an inspiration. We work with colleges across the country including Guernsey College, Bath College and New College Swindon, which have all invested in our technology over the last 12 months to supply STEM training in engineering and machining skills, relevant to manufacturers’ requirements.”

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