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Shaping ideas unlocks creativity of Rolls-Royce apprentices


It is the third time this partnership has set a creativity and innovation challenge for first-year Rolls-Royce and community apprentices, under the Shaping Ideas project, which this year saw the latest intake of more than 80 trainees produce 30 prototype artworks – or ‘maquettes’ – that could be developed into large sculptures for public display.

While the brief they were given outlined an imaginary location for the sculpture, it is hoped that ultimately one of the maquettes will be fabricated as full-size sculpture for public display.

The trainees were guided by professional artists Gillian Brent and Susan Leask, whose first task was to show them the range of contemporary art within the galleries of Tate Liverpool. Three groups each spent a week on the project – first visiting the exhibition then later travelling to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and hearing from Paul Swales, an art consultant whose expertise is in the area of commissioning public art. They spent the other three days working in teams at the University of Derby’s Green Lane campus to prepare the prototypes.

As they studied and discussed what they saw at Tate Liverpool and the sculpture park, they were able to explore how artists go about making clear visual statements, thinking through ideas, materials used and issues that arise.

And the use of creativity in tackling problems is a key area where art and business cross over, points out Learning Delivery Manager Neil Fowkes.

Neil added: “Our employees now work in a ‘self directed team’ environment: here, they can only maximise their effectiveness in meeting production targets and beating hurdles to those targets by working as cohesive teams. This means airing their views and working problems through. Shaping Ideas, as an early introduction to creative thinking and team-working, is just as important in many ways as the practical skills they learn in the workshops.”

Gillian Brent said: “As artists, it was interesting to see how the apprentices responded to each challenge they were set and each new experience … it was no surprise many enjoyed the practical side, but it was fascinating to work with them to use those skills to express their own ideas and problem-solve their way through complex concepts,” said Gillian.

“We hope the Shaping Ideas programme has allowed them to see that creativity is within everyone if they’re given the chance to think around and through ideas, and to find new ways of communicating those ideas effectively.”

Lindsey Fryer, who is Head of Interpretation and Education at Tate Liverpool, is keen that the partnership continues to pursue the shared vision of using innovative imaginative learning to support the development of creative thinking and teaching in a business context.

Lindsey added: “This year’s course has again enabled artists and trainees to work together to push the boundaries even further, relating artists’ practice to engineering in a real-life commissioning scenario … this in turn has instilled a deeper understanding of the role of creativity and innovation +in the workplace.”

Today’s event at the Learning and Development Centre, Wilmore Road, will be attended by a range of guests who will be able to view the maquettes and cast a vote for their favourite. Beforehand, three of the apprentices who took part in this year’s project will explain the background, describe how they went about the project, and what they learned along the way.

At the end of celebration, votes will be counted and “the people’s choice” will be announced.

The trainees, meanwhile, clearly got a lot out of the experience: here are some of their comments after completing the task –

“The criticisms and guidance helped us improve our work and gave us options …”

“This week has taught me to listen to the ideas of others, take my time when planning a task and to understand that others may have a different method of doing a job than you do.”

“We enjoyed making prototypes because we could change our ideas on the go.”

“I think my attitude to creative thinking has changed; artists’ jobs are pretty tough … I have learned that there are many steps to think of before building.”


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