Local community engagement is key for Less Common Metals to highlight the Rare Earth Industry to citizens. In recent years it has become crucial, especially for their understanding of how technology like mobile phones and electric vehicles are manufactured. The connection between a finished product and its supply chain is needed to be understood, and at the moment we have a disconnected society.
LCM is a partner of an EU-funded project, named SecREEts, to build a secure and stable supply of rare earth elements from European sources. It is through this project LCM has been able to build such a strong case of community-based activities for different age ranges, from nine years old to 70 years old.
Over the lifetime of this project more than 370 people have been directly engaged with and learned about rare earth elements, supply chain risks, neodymium iron boron permanent magnets for the likes of electric vehicles and wind turbines, and the SecREEts project.
Gill Williams, Senior Officer of Economic Development at the Cheshire West and Chester Council has followed the SecREEts project from the start and attended the yearly Citizen Labs. We took this opportunity to speak to Gill and to hear her views as a valued member of the community.
Why do you think it is important for manufacturing companies to include the local community in their activities?
Businesses need to have a larger presence in their local communities for several reasons. Residents need to understand “beyond the factory gates” and be proud and speak highly of a local company. Relationship links are important if the business or a community needs each other’s support for various reasons. This will also raise aspirations for young people who may wish to work in this industry. It may create family recruitment and a loyal workforce. Corporate Social Responsibility/Social Value is high on the Council agenda, and this helps build these standards.
How do you feel Less Common Metals has impacted the community? (From the bullet points above) Is this something that has been well received from your point of view?
This has been received well and you have covered all areas of education and business partners. The communities now know more about your organisation and hopefully, this will provide new local job applications in the future. The engagement will have also provided young people with a career direction in STEM-related subjects, seeing and demonstrating real-life projects, potentially leading to a career.
Do you think more manufacturing companies should reach out to the local community?
A number of our large businesses, specifically in Ellesmere Port host Community Liaison Forums. These include a local Council Member, Parish Council representatives, etc. The businesses also sponsor various events, including sporting events – Chester Marathon and local sporting club activities. There are always opportunities for businesses to do more with communities.
LCM has been involved in the following activities:
Knutsford Science Bar
Seminar talk at Knutsford Science Bar about critical minerals. This attracted predominantly over 55s.
Xplore! Science Discovery Museum
LCM, Prospex Institute and Xplore worked together to create and deliver workshops to children in local schools. The 45-minute workshop was delivered to Years 5 and 6 at Childer Thornton and Whitby Health Primary School. By covering the six steps of the supply chain in a fun and interactive way we were able to teach students about mining, extraction and separation, crushing, heating and moulding alloys, and production of permanent magnets and permanent magnets in electric vehicles. Of course, this has to fall into the National Curriculum in order for us to be able to deliver it in school, as there is no such topic in the National Curriculum (as of yet) we had to tailor it to Geography and Chemistry.
MPs – Justin Madders (Ellesmere Port) and Chris Matherson (Chester)
Site visits, local newspaper attention and helping the MPs to understand the industry including challenges and opportunities.
Young Chamber – West Cheshire and North Wales Chamber
Less Common Metals are part of the Young Chamber which is an arm of the West Cheshire and North Wales Chamber, created to benefit local schools and colleges. LCM’s role within the Young Chamber is to facilitate young people with mock CVs, interview questions, and career talks and help bridge the gap whilst acting as a mentor.
Glyndwr University – STEM Day
The STEM Day held at Glyndwr University hosted year 10 students from five different high schools. LCM constructed an engaging session about the Rare Earth Industry to help inspire and motivate young people to continue their studies and consider the handful of careers in the industry that are in high demand.
In addition to Gill, MP of Ellesmere Port, Justin Madders has also been following LCM closely in its community engagement activities.
Justin Madders said: “Manufacturing is a key part of our national economy and particularly important in Ellesmere Port. By linking up with local communities’ manufacturers can demonstrate the talent they have in their workplaces and the opportunities they have for local people.
“It has been really pleasing to see Less Common Metals proactively engage with local people with a strong programme of activities which has reached different sectors of the community. I would like to see more manufacturers follow their lead and make a real effort to showcase the fine work they do so that local people can have real pride in some of the first-class companies on their doorstep.”