As one of the biggest, and most successful, colleges in Wales, Coleg Gwent is not resting on its laurels. It has embarked on an ambitious expansion programme to deliver day release and full time apprenticeships in support of the engineering sector in its catchment area. The first phase of this plan is now complete following the arrival of four CNC machine tools supplied by XYZ Machine Tools.

These four machines, two XYZ CT52 turning centres and two XYZ Mini Mill 560 vertical machining centres, will be used to develop full-time courses to introduce students to automation in the manufacturing process, as well as involving them in initial component design, CAD/CAM, programming and general machining. Courses are also designed for part-time students, already in industry that want to upskill to make their qualifications more relevant to modern industry standards. “With the arrival of the XYZ machines we now have the ability to offer CNC units to our BTEC and City & Guilds students”, says Graham Jones, Lecturer – Mechanical, Coleg Gwent. “In addition to full-time students we are also getting local industry on-board, who can send employees, whatever their age, or skill level, to us so that they can develop their knowledge. This allows them to move up the skills ladder going from maybe operator to setter, or on to being a programmer. The new machines allow us to tailor these courses to suit individuals and their employers.”

Phase one of the CNC machining workshop at Coleg Gwent.

The College currently has 24 students on its BTEC and City & Guilds CNC modules, the oldest of which is 34 and is someone that wants to make his qualifications more relevant to get back into the job market. These students come from a cross-section of businesses, from the smallest subcontractor to blue-chip global companies and the signs are very encouraging that the uptake will increase now that the college has access to these XYZ machines. “We needed to invest in order to be able to deliver what industry needed,” says Graham Jones. “As an educational establishment, with tightly controlled budgets we looked at many alternatives when deciding on which machines to buy. Our criteria included value for money, service and technical support. A visit to XYZ’s headquarters at Burlescombe and conversations with their Educational Sales Director John Aspinall, gave us the confidence that they could deliver on all counts. Since the machines have been installed we have had need to call their support line and our questions were answered straightaway, with the information pitched at exactly the right level for us.”

Full- and part-time students will take advantage of the investment in XYZ Machine Tools.

The XYZ machines are housed in a new workshop that also includes a CMM and laser marking system, and their delivery went without a hitch, as Graham Jones put it: “The hardest part was putting the cones out in the car park to make access easy. From the delivery drivers through to service, the installation was seamless, this was backed up by the initial training we had on the machines with everyone at XYZ being friendly and approachable. Another factor in choosing XYZ Machine Tools was its partnership with WNT on its cutting tools and the joint tooling voucher system that’s in place. To be able to put a tooling package together prior to the machines arriving with support from XYZ and WNT saved us a lot of time.”

The XYZ Mini Mill 560 in use at Coleg Gwent.

With the machine’s up and running and with an expected payback of two years on this initial investment, thoughts are already turning to Phase Two of the project. This may not come to fruition for 18 months or more, but again Coleg Gwent will work with local industry to identify their needs in terms of training, whether that is more of the same or additional machines such as the XYZ ProtoTRAK mills and lathes. “Working closely with the education sector is part of XYZ’s commitment to training the engineers of tomorrow. Any recognised engineering training establishment or research centre receives special pricing on our full range of machines, they also have access to comprehensive training programmes, keeping tutors and students up to date with the latest industrial production processes. We also provide special training/open days for technicians, lecturers, teachers and students. In addition, for qualifying educational establishments we have our XYZ Student Training Days, where our XYZ Trainers go to the heart of your classroom to demonstrate what is actually happening in the world of manufacturing and how things are set for the future. These days cover topics such as: new processes, lean manufacturing, five-axis machining, CADCAM and probing,” says John Aspinall, Educational Sales Director, XYZ Machine Tools.