Confidence for composites

Posted on 7 Dec 2010 by The Manufacturer

Sector Skills Council Semta has revealed plans to support the growth of the composites sector in the UK with a new national occupational standard and a dedicated sector strategy group.

Composites technology has long been identified as a key area for strategic growth in the UK. The development of composites skills was identified as a priority in the UKCES National Skills Audit 2010 and within industry leading companies in the aerospace and defense sector as well as automotive, marine and more, have acknowledged how important the development of composites is for their future success through significant investment in composites research and training for employees.

Responding to this growing interest and anticipating future demand for standardised composites skills accreditation, Semta, the Sector Skills Council for Science, Engineering and Manufacturing today announced a series of measures to better support businesses operating in the composites sector. Semta gained responsibility for this area of manufacturing during a recent redistribution of responsibilities for the Sector Skills.

Originally the remit of SSC for science based industries, Cogent, composites was reallocated to Semta in order to emphasize its importance to the progression of Advanced Manufacturing – one of Semta’s focus sectors. Despite this shift however Cogent and Semta plan to work in partnership over the continued delivery of composites training and the communication of the needs of composites employers to government.

To date, Semta has developed a new National Occupational Standard for composites engineers up to NVQ Level 3. Occupational Standards provide a description of the skills, knowledge and understanding needed to undertake a particular task or job to a nationally recognised level of competence. This is part of an ongoing effort to formalise training requirements for employers and employees.

In line with the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills’ (BIS) Composites Strategy, Semta has also created a new employer-led strategy group to address the UK’s composites skills needs.

The Skills Strategy Group (SSG) will be chaired by Ken Wappat, Chairman of the National Composites Network, and includes over 30 employers from the aerospace, automotive, marine and composite materials manufacturing sectors, plus other stakeholders. The group’s main priority will be to lead on the development of the skills and capacity of the current and future composites workforce. It will work together to secure the delivery of necessary skills through a network of training providers approved by the national skills academies.

Philip Whiteman, Chief Executive of Semta, said: “Composites are a crucial part of the Advanced Manufacturing agenda and we have agreed to take up the lead for the composites sector. We understand the importance of upskilling employees working in the sector and we have worked very hard to continue, and build on Cogent’s work.”

Composites comprise a mixture of two or more discrete materials, which, when combined create a material with stronger mechanical properties such as low density, greater strength, corrosion resistance and lower maintenance. They are used to manufacture everything from aeroplane parts to baseball bats.

The government estimates that the value of the UK composites market is at least £20bn, while the UK market for composite wind turbine blades will be in excess of £5bn. Composites are also a fast growing export sector. Over 7,500 companies operate within the sector, employing some 286,000 people. The industry has an annual turnover of £19.76bn and a GVA of £7.31bn.

Philip Whiteman continues: “As we journey through the economic recovery, the emphasis will be on how skills and training deliver a meaningful return on investment and we want to ensure these vital UK employers are seeking real benefits to the bottom-line.”