When Lucite International’s Newton Aycliffe site (LISPR) set up a community involvement group in 2015, a key aim was to inspire and establish close links with the local community. Following on from the successful Apprenticeship Awareness Challenge with Woodham Academy in 2016, LISPR has now formed a relationship with University Technical College (UTC) South Durham.


UTC is a state-funded technical school, supported by local companies and the University of Sunderland, which aims to develop young people’s skills and inspire the next generation of leading engineers. Alongside academic qualifications, it also provides practical education and supports students with workplace skills to ensure they are prepared for working life.

James Bradley, LISPR Site Engineer, explained why he was keen to establish links with the College: “UTC offers fantastic skills development opportunities to 14-19 year olds seeking a future in engineering. For students to leave the secure environment of their schools and friends at 14 years of age demands great courage and shows just how much they want to progress in engineering. A little time out of our own schedules is a small price to pay to help shape the students’ futures in this industry.”

After UTC approached LISPR to ask if their Year 10 students could be shown some practical applications of polymers to support their studies in polymer sciences, 30 students visited the site over a two-week period in May. First, a plant tour outlined the process of creating our products and explained how a broad range of engineering disciplines come together to achieve our goals. This opened up a good discussion about the different vocations available at LISPR, and offered some clarity around what opportunities their studies could lead to in the future.

Next, LISPR’s Research and Development Project Manager, Phil Stenson, spoke about applications of our products while linking these to the fundamental science that underpins this area of polymer chemistry. He also talked about how the structure of polymers can be designed to achieve required material properties. Students then visited the laboratories where Research Scientist, Helen Harte demonstrated metallographic encapsulation – a cold cure application used to embed metal objects using monomers and polymers. An intriguing look under the microscope followed, as students learned how polymeric beads appear at such range.

The final stop was the Quality Control Lab where technician Lee Teasdale showed students how testing is carried out, involving titration and acid content values of the polymer. Some sleight-of-hand chemical tricks kept the students amused and interested in the demonstration.

Feedback from UTC has been very positive. One student commented “It was great to see the different areas of engineering and to compare them with visits to other companies who produce different things”. Another student said “It was a unique opportunity to see all of the different roles available in such a local site.”

The LISPR team looks forward to building on these links and developing closer relationships with the local community in the future.