From left: Cllr Harry Trueman, Sunderland City Council and Jo flint, Rolls-Royce UK Discs with pupils from Rickleton Primary School

School children that study next door to Rolls-Royce’s Washington factory are being given a taste of what life is like inside the company.

Pupils of Rickleton Primary School have toured the manufacturer’s £100m UK Discs plant, learned to build model engines and created a piece of 3D art for the facility’s foyer, alongside artist Zoe Allen.

The initiative aims to introduce children to science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects.

Rolls-Royce UK Discs HR manager, Jo Flint, said: “When UK Discs began production in Washington in 2013, we were keen to work with the local community. After meeting with Rickleton School we formed a partnership and worked together to get the next generation interested in engineering, particularly targeting younger children. We had some ideas and the school was also very keen to build engineering and what Rolls-Royce does into the curriculum.

“This is just the start of our partnership. The whole experience has been absolutely fantastic and we’ve learned a lot from working with the school and the young students.”

Rickleton Primary School headteacher Colin Lofthouse said he will now use the relationship to help build the first primary school STEM curriculum for younger children.

He said: “There are no STEM materials for primary children at the moment but when you ask people when they made their career decisions, they go a long way back. We asked people on the UK Discs shop floor and they all referred back to primary age experience, whether it was helping their dad fix the car or something else that inspired them.

“It’s also important to get girls interested as there are traditionally not many women in engineering. The UK Discs influence in the school is profound as many of our pupils want to be engineers. So much so that a group of our Year 6 girls entered the Primary Engineers competition and won the Level 1 Regional Finals in July.”

Rolls-Royce UK Discs produces rotating parts for use in aeroplane engines. These discs are in a wide range of Trent aero engines including the world’s most efficient aero engine the Rolls-Royce Trent XWB.

Sunderland City Council deputy leader, Cllr Harry Trueman, said: “As manufacturers across the UK in all sectors struggle with skills shortages, this is a brilliant example of how partnerships between industry and education can work for the benefit of both.

“We applaud the approach taken by Rolls-Royce UK Discs and Rickleton Primary School. They have discovered a great way to introduce young people to engineering and STEM subjects at a young age, which will open pupils’ eyes to some of the excellent engineering careers available in Sunderland. Those could be with Rolls-Royce or in one of the many manufacturing companies across the city.”

The Journal has launched the Let’s Work Together campaign to encourage North East companies to work together on addressing the region’s skills gap.

The campaign will showcase the creative ways in which many firms are tackling the issue and aims to get more companies working with schools and colleges to provide the best opportunities to the next generation of workers.

The North East’s school leavers have seen an increase in their skill levels over the last 10 years but the region is still lacking in many of the higher level skills required by employers.

The skills shortage has been highlighted in a number of economic sectors – including construction, engineering, manufacturing and the creative industries – and makes up the backdrop to the North East LEP’s Strategic Economic Plan to create “more and better jobs”.

NcjMedia managing director Stuart Birkett said: “The skills gap remains a major issue for North East business and it is crucial we act now to secure a sustainable future for the region.

“Our campaign will demonstrate how the private sector, education and the Government must work together to combat the skills gap in order for the regional economy to grow in the future.”