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This week we’re celebrating the achievements of our award-winning advanced apprenticeships.

It’s National Apprenticeship Week (9–13 March 2015) and we’re putting on a full schedule of activities to highlight our cutting-edge programme, including school visits and back to the floor events for teachers.

Our internationally-renowned Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre was the first of the UK’s national specialist research and development facilities to recognise the needs of industry for a new kind of highly-skilled, vocationally-adept engineering apprenticeship programme leading to degree level study.

During National Apprenticeship Week, our first cohort of 250 advanced apprentices, who are each fully employed and sponsored by engineering companies ranging from Rolls-Royce and TATA to smaller supply chain firms, will attend an Apprentices Award Dinner in Sheffield.

The event will highlight the achievements of a new form of apprenticeships, highly-praised by Director of Global Manufacturing at Rolls-Royce, Hamid Mughal: 

“If I was 16 years old and I was given a hundred choices for careers, I would choose here every time. You cannot ask for a better environment for tomorrow’s engineers to create the complex, customer-oriented values and solutions for industry, the economy and for the UK than this environment.

"In years ahead, long after people like me have retired, I think when people look back at the AMRC and say ‘What has the AMRC done?’ – apart from all the technologies and infrastructure change – I think people will remember the AMRC for creating world-class engineers.”

On 12 March, the AMRC Training Centre will host a national event for leaders of finance and business which will in part focus on the vital need to rebalance the UK economy towards manufacturing, exports and growth, and the crucial aspect of skills within this.

New report co-authored by our Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Keith Burnett

National Apprenticeship Week will also see the release of a new report by our Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Keith Burnett, co-authored with Professor Sir Nigel Thrift, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Warwick, about the future of advanced vocational education in the UK. The report calls for higher quality vocational education, integration with university research and genuine partnership with industry.

“All of the main political parties talk about the need to strengthen vocational education and to increase the number of apprentices, but there is still a real lack of clarity about the quality of these apprenticeships, how they link into the needs of the economy and industry and how we ensure that the young people who engage in them really do go on to the very best jobs.

“Our experience has been that the UK and global companies we work with see skills as fundamental to their future expansion and investment. Sadly, we have really neglected this in the UK and these kinds of integrated courses have been too often seen as the poor relation of ‘academic’ subjects.

"I totally reject this divide. In subjects like medicine, we have no problem understanding that the very latest research, great teaching and superb facilities are essential to the training of the next generation of doctors and surgeons. Exactly the same is true of manufacturing and engineering. Universities need to engage with companies, research, colleges and young people to identify new funded forms of advanced vocational education which will create the engineers and business leaders of the future, and that is exactly what we are doing here in Sheffield.”

Professor Sir Keith Burnett

This approach was supported by the Business Secretary Vince Cable MP at the National Apprentice Summit held at the AMRC.

“We need to end the stereotype that apprenticeships are for those who do not get to university. Degree-level apprenticeships give businesses the opportunity to develop training and education programmes specifically designed to equip learners with the skills their business needs – combining theoretical education and technical training.

"The University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre is a prime example of the type of provision we intend to encourage through National Colleges.”

Business Secretary Vince Cable MP

About The University of Sheffield’s AMRC Advanced Apprentices

  • The first cohort of AMRC Advanced Apprentices was accepted in 2014 in a state-of-the-art training centre at the Advanced Manufacturing Park.
  • The ground breaking AMRC Training Centre, supported by the Regional Growth Fund and European Regional Development Fund, aims to create knowledge and manufacturing breakthroughs by equipping highly skilled workers who will go on to regenerate the UK’s manufacturing industry.
  • Aged from 16, all of the apprentices come from a wide range of manufacturers with operations in the Sheffield city region, including Tata Steel, Rolls-Royce, Sheffield Forgemasters, AES Seal, MTL Group and Newburgh Engineering, and from the AMRC group itself.
  • As well as apprenticeships, the centre links with both Sheffield universities for higher-level education up to doctorate and MBA level, and offers a range of courses for continuing professional development.
  • The AMRC Advanced Apprenticeships were named Widening Participation Initiative of the Year in the most recent Times Higher Education awards.
  • The AMRC Training Centre was praised in Forging Futures: Building higher level skills through university and employer collaboration, published by Universities UK and the UK Commission for Employment and Skills. The report included the AMRC as a case study of how employers and universities are working together to build pathways to the highly skilled jobs crucial to the UK’s economic future.