Knowle West Media Centre (KWMC) has held a special event to showcase the work of women who took part in the Making It course, part of the Women into Digital Jobs, Education and Training (WIDJET) project from the West of England Combined Authority.
More than 50 people attended the showcase at KWMC’s digital manufacturing space KWMC: The Factory – from friends and family of the participants to technologists and employers from the Filwood Green Business Park. They discovered how the women had applied digital manufacturing technologies to a range of fields – from model making and construction to fashion and furniture.
Their work includes delicate laser-cut chocolate boxes, a chest of drawers made from nearly 150 pieces of wood, and an interactive book that incorporates lights, sensors and Augmented Reality.
WIDJET works with women across the region, providing digital skills and training from entry-level taster sessions through to high-level industry specified courses. Participants can take part in a range of skills courses, training or seminars designed directly with business needs in mind, with the aim of them securing jobs in digital roles.
West of England Mayor Tim Bowles visited KWMC: The Factory in June 2019 and returned to see what the group had produced at the showcase event.
He said: “It was great to see how our WIDJET project is supporting everyone on this course to improve their skills and improve their career prospects. One of my ambitions as Regional Mayor is to improve job opportunities for our residents. I’m also working hard to ensure that businesses in the West of England have a pool of talent to recruit from, particularly in key areas such as digital and tech.”
The 11 women in the Making It group came to KWMC: The Factory from all corners of Bristol: from Withywood, Ashton and Knowle West to Hanham, Easton and beyond. Over three months, KWMC’s specialist technicians supported the group to learn a range of skills including how to use digital design software, follow a design process, and use digital manufacturing technologies and machinery such as laser cutters, digital embroidery machines and 3D printers.
Their structured training sessions were followed by open access days where they put their new skills into practice as they designed and implemented a creative project of their choice. The group also had the opportunity to take part in specialist workshops providing introductions to disciplines including Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, coding and puppetry.
Members of the group gave their reactions to what they’ve learned:
- Charlotte used Sketchup software to design a camper-van conversion for a VW van, including a flatpack, flexible bed and storage system. She said: “I wanted to do the course to try and advance where I am professionally – I needed digital technologies to keep up in my industry. I am now already using what I’ve learnt in my freelance work – I can now take on work that I wasn’t able to before.”
- Nikki made a laptop-inspired chair using 2D and 3D design software and a range of techniques including vinyl cutting, heat pressing and CNC cutting. She said: “I wasn’t sure this was for me but I persevered and I’m glad I have. I’ve learnt that a lot of ideas I have I could actually put into practice. My biggest achievement has been regaining my confidence.”
- Kathryn crafted a collection of custom gift boxes for her homemade natural chocolate business. She utilised a technique called a ‘living hinge’ to make circular 3D boxes using the laser-cutter and 2D design software. She said: “I want to carry on making designs and using these techniques for my products – both for the packaging and for stalls. I’m one step closer to making my business a reality and opened it up to a whole new market as well.”
Making It is part of the Women into Digital Jobs, Education and Training (WIDJET) project, which is led by WECA and funded by the Government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport. It aims to support women to find jobs in digital roles and address the under-representation of women in the digital sector.
Find out more about WIDJET: www.westofengland-ca.gov.uk/skills/widjet/