Humber UTC students given top safety task by Stallingborough titanium dioxide giant

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 28 Jun 2017

CRISTAL has been working with students of Humber University Technical College to inspire young students to pursue a career in engineering – or at the very least, keep their options open by ensuring they have the necessary skills and qualifications.

The Stallingborough team partnered up with Scunthorpe’s education addition  long before bricks and mortar were put in place in Church Square. 

For a long time, Cristal has been working to raise awareness of the lack of specialist skills in the Humber area, resulting in it being difficult to find local people to fill the many specialist positions at the UK plant.

Cristal, is a global manufacturer of Titanium Dioxide, a white pigment that goes into everyday products like paint, plastic and paper.  Employing almost 400 people, the manufacturer requires a multitude of both mechanical, instrumentation and electrical engineers, scientists, operators, project managers and many other roles to operate their plant, many of which require the individual to have qualifications in STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics).  The ethos of the Humber UTC was therefore something that really appealed to Cristal and is why they have since been supporting the students by working with them on real-workplace design projects.

As part of this year’s Year 11 students’ coursework, Cristal set them the task of coming up with a solution to a leaking valve flange. If not appropriately dealt with, a leak of this kind in a hydrochloric acid pipeline could create the potential for a significant risk of harm.  While a leak is highly unlikely, the valve is the final layer of protection for employees, so is a problem the plant must be prepared for in the day-to-day running of the factory. 

The students were invited to come up with a solution to the problem in 12 hours. It needed to be reusable, easy to install and remove, be secured by mechanical fasteners, have an early leak detection system and be environmentally friendly.

Mark Booth, engineering competency specialist at Cristal, said: “This was a genuine issue that we faced and thought it would be a good problem-solving project to challenge the UTC students. I outlined the problem, gave the students the specific design criteria and left it with them to come up with ideas before returning to assess their design solutions.

“I was pleasantly surprised at some of the ideas put forward. Some clearly demonstrated a good understanding of design and the task criteria, with a few not a million miles away from what we actually have installed in the plant. The majority of the student designs were over-engineered, however this task provided the students with a valuable lesson in balancing design, functionality and cost.”

 One of the options available to the Humber UTC students once they complete their studies at the college is an apprenticeship, and taking part in projects like this at the UTC will set the students in good stead for it. 

Mr Booth said Cristal has always been a champion of the importance of apprenticeship programmes and has run its own programme, almost uninterrupted, for more than 30 years.  This year is no different and there are seven apprenticeship positions available across the areas of mechanical, instrumentation and electrical, operations and the scientific laboratory.  

“Cristal certainly hopes that the Humber UTC will be a place that will nurture our rising stars of the future,” he added.

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