SILVERSON – Da Vinci Catapult Challenge

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Bucks Skills HubSilverson Machines is a world leader in the design and manufacture of industrial mixers. The head office and factory in Chesham is one of the most advanced of its kind, designing and building equipment that is exported all over the world.  Silverson’s customers include brands such as Cadbury’s, L’Oreal, Coca-Cola, Heinz, Nestle, Carlsberg, The Body Shop, Unilever and many more.

Typical of engineering businesses, Silverson is experiencing an aging workforce where a number of employees retire every year at the same time as their business is growing and they struggle to recruit young apprentices.

As a result, Silverson are passionate about investing in tomorrow’s engineers and worked alongside the Bucks Skills Hub to set an exciting skills focussed engineering challenge for enthusiastic year 10 students over the last half term.

For the challenge, selected students worked alongside the Silverson full time apprentices for five days to build a Da Vinci Catapult based on supplied drawings, although tweaks and improvements were encouraged to achieve the best performance. The opportunity was posted on OppsinBucks and facilitated by the Skills Hub team. Once made, the machines were then subjected to competitive tests to ascertain which one was the most robust and/or performed best.

When recruiting for their apprenticeship scheme last year Silverson contacted 16 local schools, distributed thousands of leaflets via door drops and advertised in the local press to recruit six apprentices with very limited results. Conversely for the engineering challenge they were over-subscribed; they were looking for fifteen applicants and through using OppsinBucks, schools engaged and they received interest from more than twenty applicants. In the end they took seventeen who included three girls. The week was a huge success – the full complement of seventeen arrived for all five days on time and all teams delivered functioning Da Vinci Catapults.

Winners – Longest Distance

For the competitive challenge on the Friday, parents were also invited to attend which presented a great opportunity to inform them about apprenticeships. They were surprised that an exciting business like Silverson was based in

Chesham and all were very complimentary about the challenge, the company and interested in finding out more about the apprenticeship opportunity. Feedback from the learners was also very positive, with one of the girls, in particular, saying she would really like a career in engineering.

Overall Winners – Teamwork, and aesthetically pleasing catapult

Rather than just advertising apprenticeship/job opportunities as and when they arise, it is important that businesses engage with educators, young people and the local community in a meaningful way so that when they then want to advertise opportunities, they are not overlooked or ignored. Even in the few days since the challenge, schools, young people and parents have been in contact with them about their next apprenticeship scheme intake in September.

The Skills Hub and OppsinBucks helped Silverson to connect with educators and young people, to build the bridge between education and industry, and delivered a real win-win for everyone.


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