Unipart Manufacturing chief receives honorary degree for work with ‘AME’

One of the West Midlands’ leading female industrialists has been awarded an honorary degree by Coventry University.

Carol Burke CBE, Managing Director at Unipart Manufacturing Group, was granted the title of Doctor of Technology in recognition of her pioneering work in setting up the Institute of Advanced Manufacturing & Engineering (AME) over five years ago.

The experienced engineer was one of the driving forces behind the UK’s first ‘Faculty on the Factory Floor’, helping support a new approach to developing the graduates of the future by making them more industry ready through direct access to real-life manufacturing projects.

It is an approach that has already led to over 100 new manufacturing professionals joining the sector and, due to AME’s ability to commercialise R&D, leading to a string of £multi-million new contracts for Unipart Manufacturing Group.

“Whilst I’m personally delighted to receive the honorary degree, I do feel the title is more recognition of how successful the Institute and its bold approach to bridging the skills gap has been,” explained Carol, who started her career with GKN.

“Industry and academia coming together hasn’t always been the easiest of marriages and, although there has definitely been soul searching on both sides, we have proven that the model works.”

She continued: “Giving undergraduates the chance to learn in a real-life manufacturing environment fast tracks their careers and equips them with skills that can have an immediate impact on the shop floor.

“The R&D work we have successfully carried out together includes projects as diverse as supporting the development of new fuel rails, as well as creating a new battery manufacturing facility. We feel we have found the blueprint for other companies and universities to follow.”

AME is located on one of Unipart Manufacturing Group’s sites in Coventry and is committed to developing industry-ready graduates by giving them direct access to real-life engineering projects.

Based in a purpose-built 1700 sq metre hub, over 200 students have completed or are working towards their degrees, utilising the latest robotics, automation and welding technology.

The latest graduation saw 22 budding engineers achieve their BEng. Nine of them have stayed on for a fourth year to study for their MEng, whilst the others have all secured employment with a range of businesses, from major OEMs and SMEs to positions at High Value Manufacturing Catapults.

Lara-Jay Oxborough, a 2019 graduate, has already secured a job, working in continuous improvement for Unipart’s Powertrain Applications business.

“AME has been a fantastic way to get my career in manufacturing started, giving me the opportunity to develop technical and softer skills whilst studying on live engineering projects throughout my degree – it’s the type of knowledge you simply can’t get from a textbook.

“Part of my course was understanding how live manufacturing cells work and I’ve already had to use and implement, with a digital solution, this in my actual job. I’d also spent time with some of my current colleagues whilst doing my degree, so it has been very easy fitting into the team.”

Lara, who is working towards her Green Six Sigma belt, concluded: “In my short time at Unipart, I’ve already been involved in fuel fillers and the Hyperbat business, which involves the development and manufacture of the latest battery solutions.”

The Institute for Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering has recently been awarded a prestigious Queen’s Anniversary Prize, the highest national Honour awarded in the UK to further and higher education organisations.