Technology Supplies is the leading supplier of design-and-technology and engineering products and services to education worldwide. The organisation now works with over 5,500 secondary schools and colleges; it also focuses on the development of state-of-the-art “makerspaces” in the world’s leading international schools for the provision of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. Based in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, the organisation employs around 80 staff between its office and 90,000-square-foot warehouse facility. Its annual turnover is around £13 million, with a steady upward trajectory of yearly growth driven by the momentum of the international market.
The importance of STEM
Over the next decade, the success of STEM industries will be pivotal for the UK’s economic success. To maintain its £370 billion gross value, 1.3 million workers will be required each year, from now up to 2022.This fact reflects the growing shortfall of students who are able to enter the UK workforce with relevant skills in STEM subjects and apply to the increasing number of vacancies in these fields. This issue is best demonstrated through the number of students taking design and technology at GCSE, a figure which has declined by 40 per cent in the last ten years. Design and technology has seen the greatest decline in participation of all STEM subjects, but is responsible for providing the most relevant training in skills for a modern workforce – skills such as problem-solving and creativity.
We firmly believe at Technology Supplies that STEM education is of paramount importance to the success of STEM industries and the wider UK economy. Through this belief, we have been at the forefront of modern learning in the products and services we provide to support schools and teachers, both in alignment with global curricula, and in driving the development of 21st-century skills, such as creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and communication.
Ground-breaking educational development
In the early 2000s, we became the first organisation in the UK to introduce laser-cutting machines into schools. An industrial process had just become available in an educational format, allowing students to get to grips with physical challenges which would be presented in a future career.
Soon after, we sought out manufacturers who could provide a machine capable of introducing 3D printing to the classroom; subsequently, we became a leader in the provision of 3D printers and resources for educational institutions.
Ten years on from the introduction of laser cutters, the appetite for advancing technologies in UK schools is now dwarfed by that of independent international schools. Although we are still highly active in UK schools, we now receive a third of our revenue from international independent counterparts, as their desire to drive innovation and a modern approach to learning becomes a flagship mindset within their school. This often takes the form of a Technology Supplies “makerspace” or “innovation centre”: an area which includes a careful blend of manufacturing technologies and control systems for the provision of coding education.
An innovation space in Singapore
One such project of ours can be seen at Tanglin Trust School in Singapore. The school provides a British-based curriculum with an international perspective for students between the ages of 3 and 18. It currently hosts students from over 50 different countries.
In 2016, Tanglin Trust School approached us with a brief to develop and install a facility which could provide a future-focused design and manufacturing curriculum. This would help to develop 21st-century skills, alongside “making” skills for today’s workforce, such as coding and computer science. Presented with an empty shell of a room, our team leant on its combined background of over 100 years in educational workshop environments, many members of which had practical teaching experience in schools. They designed a configuration which met the brief for innovation, yet maintained practicalities for working space, flexibility and storage solutions.
Not only does the completed environment allow students to work with the latest-generation 3D printers and in “clean” control technology (coding) zones, it also merges with subtractive manufacturing techniques such as CNC routers, scroll saws and hand tools. Working spaces also allow for collaborative learning, and through our proprietary mobile workbenches, machinery can be easily and quickly repositioned to suit the requirement of any given lesson.
We have continued to work alongside Tanglin Trust School, supplying consumable materials and additional tooling for their innovation space. Thanks to the success of the initial project and its appreciation among staff and parents, as well as students, we are now in discussions with the school about a phase two project.
The demand for innovation spaces in educational settings is growing on the success of those we have already installed. The world’s leading independent schools and groups regard us as the global leader in their implementation; these include GEMS, Nord Anglia Education, Taaleem, Bloom Education, Repton School, Shrewsbury School, Wellington College, Harrow School and many more.
Relationships on home soil
We are also heavily associated with the development of over half of the UK’s university technical colleges (UTC), installing engineering workshops for manufacturing-focused secondary education curricula. Taking Silverstone UTC as an example, we worked with industry partners and the college to provide an industrial facility which took key elements from the motor racing sector and integrated them into a specialist educational provision.
In 2017, we applied the same transitional approach between education and industry in our work on the Dyson School of Design Engineering at Imperial College, London. This world-leading higher education institution required a full-scale revamp of its engineering workshop, and enlisted the STEM education experience of our organisation.
Following a successful initial project, Imperial College is now planning a second phase of its development, which will be one of over 50 major projects for us this year.
The UK’s education market is seeing a minimal amount of investment at present, and this circumstance has remained constant for the last few years. We have maintained relationships with thousands of schools, colleges, universities and multi-academy trusts to ensure a strong UK business network. Based on the success of previous years, however, we foresee that future opportunities for growth will come from introducing our unique, specialist proposition to further international education markets over the next two years.
“We have been at the forefront of modern learning in the products and services we provide”
“The demand for innovation spaces in educational settings is growing on the success of those we have already installed”
FACTS ABOUT TECHNOLOGY SUPPLIES
»Managing director: Paul Harrington
»Established in 1986
»Based in Shrewsbury, Shropshire
»Services: Supply, installation and maintenance for both design-and-technology and engineering education worldwide
»No. of employees: 80
»Every year, 4.5 million students worldwide are taught using equipment and consumables from Technology Supplies