Better business sense for apprentices

Posted on 31 May 2011 by The Manufacturer

Sector skills council for manufacturing Semta will demand broader and better business skills for apprentices in its new apprenticeship framework, launched today.

The sector skills council for science, engineering and manufacturing technologies, Semta, has been at the centre of ongoing work to ensure that apprenticeship frameworks in the UK are fit for purpose as government throws its support behind vocational education.

Semta has been communicating closely with employers, training associations and awarding bodies to ensure that apprenticeship qualifications match the requirements of employers and provide appropriate training for future engineering professionals in a range of sectors.

Qualifications for manufacturing employees and trainees in Business Improvement Techniques (BITs) have been available for some time but will now be embedded within higher level apprenticeship schemes. This inclusion responds to the message from employers that they will only invest in apprenticeships if they are confident that real business needs will be answered.

The call for apprentice training in lean techniques and approaches to operational improvement was reiterated at a recent event in Westminster – Apprenticeship Ambition Blueprint – which provided the chance for employers, sector skills councils and education providers across sectors to debate their needs and the challenges to delivering on them, face to face.

The new framework will become a requirement under the Specification of Apprenticeship Standards in England (SASE), and eemployers will need to change over from existing apprenticeship frameworks.

Titled, Improving Operational Performance, the new framework has been created following a careful analysis of employers needs, and brings together three apprenticeship pathways (Performing Engineering Operations Level 2, Performing Manufacturing Operations Level 2, and Business Improvement Techniques Level 2) that equip apprentices with the basic skills and knowledge to carry out a range of engineering and manufacturing processes at semi-skilled and operator level. The BITs pathway ensures these processes are planned and executed as efficiently as possible, minimising waste while ensuring the highest quality.

Philip Whiteman, chief executive of Semta says: “There is huge demand for Business Improvement Techniques so having a very relevant framework will encourage business to invest in more apprentices. We understand the need to be flexible in our approach and we will announce further frameworks to meet employers’ latest needs shortly.”

It remains to be seen how well this new iteration of the BITs training beds-in with manufacturing employers. While some have applauded it in the past, others, such as Alison Dowd, continuous improvement and training manager at West-Midlands based manufacturer, Power Panels commented to TM during a recent site visit that the current BITs qualifications were cumbersome for employers and trainees alike with too much paperwork and classroom based moderation.