Brinsworth Academy of Engineering in Rotherham, South Yorkshire has upgraded its training facilities so that students, apprentices and adult learners are working with current equipment and cutting-edge technologies.

Much of the new equipment has been supplied by control and automation specialists – Mitsubishi Electric – working in partnerships with SMC Pneumatics, which has supplied training rigs with actuators and other pneumatic products. As well as offering traditional engineering courses, the academy is using the new equipment to develop standard training courses and will, in the future, develop further into the fields of servos, motion and mechatronics.

The academy has a great number of training rigs that allow practical training in many aspects of engineering including pneumatic circuitry, PLC (programmable logic controller) programming, precision motion and manufacturing processes. It is important that these are based on up-to-date equipment to maximise relevance and ensure that the skills being taught are directly transferrable to industry.

Brinsworth has had an association with Mitsubishi for many years and was keen to maintain this through the current programme of re-equipping. In fact, Gary Hatfield of Mitsubishi Electric describes the South Yorkshire region as something of a Mitsubishi stronghold.

“We supply our products and systems to a great many companies, large and small, in the region. So when Brinsworth trainees enter industry they immediately see equipment that is familiar to them.”

Probably the most popular item of Mitsubishi equipment used in the academy is the FX compact PLC. This small but hugely powerful controller can be found on many of the training rigs and is equally popular in industry. Hatfield says:

“The FX was the world’s first compact PLC: the original was launched 25 years ago to instant acclaim. It has been constantly updated ever since and has sold more than 10 million units worldwide, making it the market leader in its class.”

The PLC is now the basic building block of nearly all industrial control systems, so the ability to program them is fundamental to modern engineering. Not only are PLCs used to control machines but their data-logging abilities mean they are also increasingly used for monitoring machine performance, health and maintenance scheduling. Brinsworth is very aware of this, so teaches programming as a discipline and also integrates it into many of its other courses.

While South Yorkshire has a proud history in heavy industry, it is changing rapidly and many high-tech industries are now benefiting from moving into the area.

“We have to keep pace with the changing needs of our regional industry,” explains Brinsworth’s Business Development Director, Paul Reeves. “So we have developed training facilities and programmes for the latest technologies, such as robots, precision motion, HMIs (human-machine interfaces) and energy saving inverter drives.

As well as the extensive refit, Brinsworth Academy of Engineering is celebrating having secured a record number of vacancies for apprentices, despite the harsh economic climate – proof that the region’s engineering employers benefit from the college’s forward-thinking and passion for developing youth employability.

Mitsubishi Electric has quite a history in the educational sector. It has supplied many colleges and training facilities up and down the country, while its own Certified Engineer programme is widely recognised as excellent and has even been adopted overseas.