Companies from Sunderland’s vibrant automotive and manufacturing sectors have been hosting five French students as part of an industrial exchange programme organised with the city’s twin town Saint-Nazaire.

The summer exchange, now in its seventh year, offers three months of high-quality work placements for engineering students, providing them with practical experience in the kind of industries they will be seeking to enter when they graduate.

Rayovac, part of Spectrumbrands (UK) Ltd. based in Washington, the University of Sunderland’s Institute for Automotive and Manufacturing Advanced Practice (AMAP) at the Industry Centre (Sunderland Enterprise Park West), and Lear Corporation at Rainton Bridge have taken students once again, and Unipres (UK) Limited in Sunderland has joined the programme for the first time.

AMAP’s two students are working on research projects: Jean-Baptiste Pedron is looking at cold battery research and Mohamed El Fadili is working on cold fuel cell research. Guillaume Banchereau’s placement at Lear involves work on electrical control improvements for the Nissan Qashqai seat assembly line. At car component firm Unipres, Nicolas Laville has been involved with the hot press and laser process automation, and Julien Vela has been working with electrical engineers to help design, build and develop production equipment at hearing aid battery maker Rayovac.

Julien, an electrical engineering student, said the placement has helped to firm up his career plans to work in the manufacturing sector, specifically creating electrical engineering software programs.

He said: “I enjoyed gaining technical knowledge and skills from the electrical and mechanical engineers at Rayovac. Working in a manufacturing site has been very interesting.

“Staying in Sunderland has been great, the people are really friendly. ·It is a great opportunity to experience working in the UK. You will learn much more than just technical skills such as the culture and history of the North East of England.”

Rayovac has been involved in the Saint-Nazaire student exchange programme for a number of years, and finds the placements useful.

Plant manager, Paul Deeble, said: “At Rayovac, developing young, emerging talent is important to us, and this is why we welcome the opportunity to work with the student apprentices in this scheme.

“The North East is known as a hub for manufacturing and engineering businesses.  International students travelling to the region get a taste of working in the industry and some real hands on experience, which is vital for them and is a fantastic opportunity for us.

“It has been a pleasure to see Julien working within the team here at Rayovac and we hope he has enjoyed his experience just as much.  We all wish him every success in his future studies and career.”

Sunderland and Saint-Nazaire, a major port and shipbuilding centre on France’s Atlantic coast, have been twinned since 1953. Twinning activities, many of which involve young people from the two cities, are organised by Sunderland City Council’s international team.


Deputy Mayor of Sunderland City Council, Councillor Alan Emerson; Julien Vela, student based at Rayovac; Deputy Mayoress, Janice Emerson.

Sunderland Deputy Mayor, Councillor Alan Emerson, met the Saint-Nazaire students at Rayovac.

He said: “We really value our international ties with Saint-Nazaire. Sunderland’s links with France are very important. Apart from the employment provided by Nissan-Renault, we owe more than 2,500 jobs in the city to French companies including EDF Energy, Hamelin and SNOP UK.

“I hope this year’s Saint-Nazaire students have enjoyed their time in Sunderland and I’m confident they will all have gained valuable experience for the future. I’d like to thank all the companies involved in this year’s exchange programme and hope they too have enjoyed, and learned, from the experience.”

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