Loughborough Technical Institute was established by the County Education Committee in 1909 to provide day and evening classes in science, technology and art for local workers.
Headed by its principal - Mr S C Laws - and two full-time members of staff, the college was housed in the small block of rooms on the corner of Ashby Road and Greenclose Lane which had previously been a library and administrative offices for Loughborough Corporation.
In September 1915 the Institute appointed a new principal, Herbert Schofield, a former engineering apprentice from Halifax who’d won a scholarship to the Royal College of Science and earned degrees in mechanics, mathematics and physics.
Schofield’s appointment came just months after the passing of the Munitions of War Act with its call for an increased supply of weaponry for the troops at the Front. The Act demanded that additional munitions factories be established across the country and that women be employed in them. This new workforce would need training as machine tool operators, and quickly.
At a time when other institutes were training workers through lectures, Herbert Schofield had the idea of providing hands on instruction in a factory setting. In this way, he believed, workers would become skilled whilst at the same time producing the goods so desperately needed for the war effort. Schofield called this technique ‘training on production’.
Schofield spotted an opportunity to try out his own, pioneering ideas for training engineers and though the Institute’s facilities were limited, he immediately offered it as an instructional factory. His offer was accepted and the Institute was given a contract to produce 18-pounder HE shells.
With the help of two influential friends - Alderman Alfred Bumpus, the Chair of the Institute’s Governors, and William Brockington, Leicestershire’s first Director of Education - Schofield collected £1000 for adapting the workshops and buying the additional machine tools that he needed, most of them second hand. By January 1916 the Instructional Factory was ready for its first trainees – all women. They worked a forty-hour week in groups of as many as thirty. Courses lasted between two weeks and six months and were delivered in shifts, with local women taking them in the evening and through the night.
The Instructional Factory was a success from the start and with financial support from the Ministry of Munitions, was quickly expanded. By the end of WW1 more than 2300 machine tool operators had been trained at the Loughborough Instructional Factory, the majority of them women.
Loughborough Technical Institute would continue to train engineers after the end of World War 1, becoming Loughborough College in September 1918 and offering three- and five-year diploma courses to returning servicemen and young men interested in a career in engineering.
Discharged disabled soldiers and men unfit for service also became trainees. Once trained, both men and women went on to work in munitions factories across the country. After an unpaid probationary period, female workers received between 4.5d and 5.5d an hour in pay. Men were paid 6d to 9d.
Trainees were lodged all over Loughborough. Some stayed in houses set up as hostels, such as The Red House in Burton Walks, Forest View in Forest Road and Sunnyside in Park Road. Others lodged in people’s homes, like a girl called Iris who lived with a family in Toothill Road whilst learning how to make aeroplane wings.
Trainees worked as shell turners, gauge makers, tool setters, fitters, and aircraft woodworkers. The fuselage and wings for the Avro 504K were made by women trainees in the old Congregational Chapel in Orchard Street and transported to the Brush Factory where the aircraft were manufactured.
Loughborough College became Loughborough University of Technology in 1966, taking the shortened name ‘Loughborough University’ in 1996.