National Apprenticeship Week
Apprentices from the University of Sheffield's Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) Training Centre are showing their support for this year’s National Apprenticeship Week.
This year the event – which runs 14-18 March – is focused on helping young people ‘rise to the top’ by encouraging them to find out how an apprenticeship could help them succeed in an exciting career in engineering.
We’ve been talking to some of the AMRC Training Centre’s current apprentices about how their apprenticeships are helping them to achieve their career goals and dreams.
As part of the week, the training centre is also opening its doors for a packed programme of events and open days. Prospective apprentices and schools interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics are invited to tour the training centre's state-of-the-art teaching facilities, meet current apprentices and take part in engineering challenges.
To find out more about the events planned this week visit the AMRC Training Centre website and click ‘What’s On’.
Jacob Moss, Fernite
An apprentice at the AMRC is following in the family footsteps for bright 16-year-old Jacob Moss.
Learning his trade on the site of the former Orgreave Colliery, it’s the very same place where his Grandad learnt how to be a joiner.
“My Grandad worked at this site and worked his way up from an apprentice joiner to be the head of the whole carpentry section at Orgreave,” said Jacob a former independent school pupil (Mount St Marys) from Treeton in Rotherham.
“He used to tell me stories about his time working at the pit. He told me about the cages colliding in the mine on one occasion and how he had to get out through the emergency exit.
“He told me he was glad the pit closed by the time I was ready for work as he would not have wanted me to work down there but he was really pleased that I was accepted on an AMRC apprenticeship.
“At school I thought ‘what other opportunities are there?’ I love machinery and I love engineering. I could have looked at doing an engineering degree but I would not have the practical skills of someone who had come from the AMRC. I wanted hands on experience.”
Jacob is at the AMRC for the first 26 weeks and then will go back to his employer, Sheffield manufacturer Fernite, where he will be based four days, returning to the AMRC training Centre one day a week during his three-year apprenticeship.
“I’m really happy to be working with for Fernite and the engineering skills gap means there lot of opportunities in the industry,” he added. “The other benefit is there are no £9k tuitions fees for me. I am learning and earning.”
Eloise Shaw, Technicut
Eloise Shaw wanted to be an engineer from a young age and after leaving school in Sheffield (Handsworth Grange) with mainly Bs in her GCSEs the talented 16-year-old secured a place as a
Mechanical Manufacturing apprentice at the AMRC Training Centre.
“My Grandad was a turner and he had a double garage with machinery like fitting benches and a pillar drill which I loved as child,” she said. “He always used to let me play with them but would say: ‘don’t tell your mum’!
“I lived close by to the AMRC and I saw it being built. When my mum told me it was an engineering college we came to have a look around. I got on the shop floor and I thought it looked really good.”
“Apprenticeships weren’t really advertised much to me at school but once I expressed an interest in the AMRC my teachers were supportive.”
The 16-year-old like all the AMRC apprentices had to sit through an assessment centre – which ensures only the right candidates go through - before she was offered interviews with engineering companies in the area.
She impressed bosses enough at Sheffield-based cutting tool specialists Technicut for them to offer her an apprenticeship. “I was so happy when Technicut offered me a job and I’m really enjoying what I’m doing,” added Eloise.
“I’ll be at the AMRC training centre for six months on the shop floor followed by an additional three months on the CNC machines before I go back to Technicut to start as a trainee CNC machinist.
“My employer asked in my interview if I would want to further develop and do the foundation degree, I want to go as far as I can. I like to do design so I might look at CAD.
“For me an apprenticeship is the best pathway, I get to learn while earning money. My friends go to college in the week and then have Saturday jobs. They wonder why I’ve got so much money!”
And it doesn’t bother Eloise that she is still one of a few girls to enter the engineering profession but she thinks more could be done to encourage talented young females into the profession. “I think schools should do more to encourage girls into engineering from a young age,” she said.
“It seemed when I was at school the boys were pushed more towards what are seen as ‘masculine’ subjects such as woodwork and metalwork and the girls were pushed more towards sewing and cooking. That needs to change.”
Cameron Starkey, MGB Plastics
Cameron Starkey was predicted good grades in his A Levels and could easily have secured a place at a top university but the 19-year-old had had enough of the classroom and chose an apprenticeship route instead.
“Right from finishing GCSEs I did not want to go to university,” he said. “I didn’t want the student debt and I felt like I wanted to learn some practical skills.
“I was midway through my A levels when I found out about the AMRC apprenticeships and they just sounded right for me.”
Cameron, who left school (Brookfield Community School, Chesterfield) with three Bs in Maths, Physics and Product Design, is now on a two-year higher apprenticeship in Mechanical Manufacture based at the AMRC’s Training Centre for six months. He is employed by Rotherham plastics company MGB Plastics.
“It’s everything I hoped it would be and I’m looking forward to going back to my company in March when I’ll be doing one day a week at the Training Centre,” he said. “The student life wasn’t for me. I’m doing the Foundation Degree then I might be able to top it up to a full degree, depending on what my employer wants me to do.
“A lot of my friends have gone off to university but when they finish I could be £30,000 in front of them because I won’t have any debt and hopefully I will have a job at the end.”
Rebecca Taylor, ATI
“If I was 16 years old and I was given a hundred choices for careers, I would choose here every time,” said a recent visitor to a powerful partnership between global manufacturers and the University of Sheffield that is creating the young engineers of the future.
The visitor – one of the many industrial and political figures to have made the pilgrimage to the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) Training Centre in the year since it opened its doors to its first cohort of 150 apprentices – was none other than Dr Hamid Mughal, the Director of Global Manufacturing at Rolls-Royce.
Dr Mughal told the National Summit for Apprentices and Higher Vocational Education, held at the AMRC, that: “You cannot ask for a better environment than this for tomorrow’s engineers to create the complex, customer-oriented values and solutions for industry.”
Praise indeed. The centre has not only set benchmark standards for the quality of its training, but is also opening up new pathways for young people to make the transition from school to higher education.
The success of the centre has led government ministers and officials to base the new network on national colleges on the AMRC Training Centre model. “We are different because we began by working with a consortium of industrialists to develop our curriculum, and everything we do here is employer led,” says Kerry Featherstone, Head of Operations at the AMRC Training Centre, and a former Early Careers and Future Capability Manager for BAE SYSTEMS.
From the hexagonal benches arranged in manufacturing cells and the use of lean working, engineering principles and production meetings through to oversight from an active Industry Board, the AMRC Training Centre has a work-ready culture at its heart.
If there is a gap to be filled, it is the lack of young women coming through the system – but even this is being addressed. A summer school for youngsters last year attracted record numbers of girls. “One of the groups was entirely young girls,” said Featherstone.
The task now is to translate that enthusiasm into female apprentices. “We are doing the outreach work, getting into schools and making teachers, parents and pupils aware of what modern, advanced engineering is really like,” she added.
You cannot ask for a better environment than this for tomorrow’s engineers to create the complex, customer-oriented values and solutions for industry.
Dr Hamid Mughal, Director of Global Manufacturing at Rolls-Royce
Rebecca Taylor was a student at Thomas Rotherham College when she applied to become an engineering apprentice. The evaluators could see that Rebecca had talent and promise. What they didn’t know was that manufacturing is hard wired into her DNA.
“I’m not the first in my family. A while back we used to own one of the biggest companies in South Yorkshire, Newton Chambers. My great grandad was in charge of a team of aeroplane engineers in the Second World War and my grandad was a fitter, so it just skipped a generation and we’re back on.”
Her talent was also spotted by ATI in Sheffield who recruited her as a trainee engineer. She says: “They do work for Rolls-Royce engines and there’s also a site like this, which is nice and clean, where they manufacture pipes.”
Of her training at the AMRC centre she says: “Half the time we are programming, and then we run our work downstairs. I enjoy it here, it’s varied and you can carry on to get a degree if you want, but your eggs aren’t all in one basket; you can go down a number of routes.”
And Rebecca has advice for girls, to look beyond the muck and oil if they are interested in a career in engineering: “Girls at school go to engineering firms and just see the dirt, but they don’t go to advanced manufacturing centres like this. The way to get girls into engineering is to have more facilities like this.”
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