A tale of two trips

We’ve taken Y12 on two factory visits over the last few days. The Business Studies students went to the Land Rover factory in Solihull, and the Economics students went to Thorntons Chocolates. The focus of the Land Rover trip was operations, particularly lean manufacturing, and it included both a factory tour and some classroom-based activities. Having done this particularly trip several times, it has been fascinating watching the site develop: what was a car park during our first visit became a building site by the time of our second, and is now a fully operational assembly plant. We’ve always had the same tour guides, both very knowledgeable former employees who clearly care deeply about the business and how it has developed. In the classroom session we did an excellent activity based on kaizen and lean principles, and then had a go programming robotic arms: much trickier than it looks!

Thorntons is clearly a different scale business, and is a very nice ‘compare and contrast’ example for those who do both Business and Economics. A talk from one of their managers, covering changes to the strategy in response to external changes and falling profitability, was interesting (if a real stretch and challenge!), and then it was off to get booted’n’suited ready for the tour of the production facilities. The white work shoes raised eyebrows, as did the hairnets, but nowhere near as much as the blue beard snoods for those boys who hadn’t bothered shaving that morning! The tour guides are all current employees, which means that they know the business well, but the real highlight was the tasting station. Much better than at Land Rover!

Going on regular factory visits is something I think is very valuable, but the longer-term challenge will be working out how to fit them into the Programme of Learning: it makes sense to do them during the Operations section of the Y12 course, but this is scheduled very close to the legacy AS exams – it may be that a bit of creative timetabling is called for! We’ve also been to JCB which is excellent for strategy, growth and leadership (the old BUSS4 topics) but I think we’ll do that trip in Y13, even though leadership is now going to be a Y12 topic: there’s nothing wrong with a refresher! I’d be interested to know where other schools and colleges go and at what point during the school year – let me know in the comments.

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