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Talented tech interns took part in a ‘mindblowing’ virtual reality experience while highlighting their skills to businesses on the hunt for new recruits at a Birmingham network event.

Interns studying subjects such as artificial intelligence, computer science and data science met with several West Midlands manufacturing businesses looking for interns with great expertise at the ‘TechFutures Made Smarter Internship Event’ at In A Box 3 in Digbeth, Birmingham.

The interns also got to experience a ‘walk the plank’ VR simulation, featuring a long lift ride up to a dizzyingly high skyscraper with nothing but a virtual plank in front of them. They then had to walk along the plank and be brave enough to ‘jump off’.

The event was organised by Made Smarter – a £1.9 million programme which helps SMEs in the manufacturing and engineering sectors utilise new digital technology and equip them for the future.

Richard Hales, Account Manager for Skills and Employment at Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) Growth Hub which is leading Made Smarter, gave a talk around the scheme before Tony Sartorius, Chairman of aluminium casting firm Alucast, spoke about how the internship programme helped his business.

We thought the Made Smarter campaign was a great idea when we first heard about it – we wanted to adopt a much more digital way of working.

We used to have a very manual way of inputting data and analysing our machines’ performance, which was impacting our productivity.

Tony Sartorius, Chairman of aluminium casting firm Alucast

Tony said: “We took on two interns, Mohammed Asad and Farhan Ahmed, whose background in computer science helped us install tablets around our factory which enabled our engineers to immediately input data into a new integrated system, which we’ve calculated has saved us 1,200 hours of work annually.

“Made Smarter’s internship scheme has been fantastic for us, and it’s great that other businesses and interns will be able to reap the benefits thanks to this fantastic event.”

I wanted to come along to see how my studies can help businesses in the West Midlands, and there were plenty that seemed really interested in what I could bring to the table.

“The VR experience was mind-blowing too, so it was brilliant to try that out. VR has its own part to play in business in the future, and ties in with my Masters in AI. I’m looking forward to speaking with businesses further and helping them achieve their goals, and developing my own skills too.

Intern Ayodele Henry, Masters student studying artificial intelligence at Wolverhampton University

“The VR experience was mind-blowing too, so it was brilliant to try that out. VR has its own part to play in business in the future, and ties in with my Masters in AI. I’m looking forward to speaking with businesses further and helping them achieve their goals, and developing my own skills too.”
And Craig Humphrey, Managing Director of the CWLEP Growth Hub, said: “The Achilles’ heel of our economy in the West Midlands is our productivity, and Made Smarter is a programme which aims to address that.

“Made Smarter can provide grants to manufacturers looking to digitalise aspect of their company, and it also provides access to talented interns that can spot problems and find digital solutions, boosting the firm’s productivity and giving the intern valuable experience.

“This networking event was a fantastic way to introduce interns looking for new challenges to businesses needing a fresh pair of eyes to help them overcome the issues they are facing – and gave them a chance to try out an exciting VR experience too.

“We’re looking forward to hosting more events like this as we continue the Made Smarter programme.”

The Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) Growth Hub is leading the one-year Made Smarter scheme with the region’s other Growth Hubs in Greater Birmingham and Solihull, the Black Country, Worcestershire, The Marches, and Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire on behalf of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

The West Midlands Growth Hubs are working closely with WMCA and their strategic partners Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) in Coventry and WMG, University of Warwick.

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