Future foundations: Lloyds continue its partnership with the Advanced Manufacturing Training Centre (AMTC)

Posted on 16 Mar 2023 by Joe Bush

Lloyds Bank will continue to provide the Advanced Manufacturing Training Centre (AMTC) at the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) £1m per year before 2030 after announcing the extension of its support for the centre and wider UK manufacturing sector. This brings Lloyds Bank’s total sponsorship of the AMTC to £15m. The Manufacturer caught up with both parties to find out more.

The current issues around skills in manufacturing, whether that be an ageing workforce, the lack of available talent or the battle for digital capabilities, is a trend that is being felt globally, and one that has been exacerbated by other seismic events such as the COVID-19 pandemic, Brexit, the war in Ukraine and the current energy crisis.

Advanced Manufacturing Training Centre (AMTC)
The MTC is working with Lloyds Bank and the West Midlands Combined Authority to develop a skills bootcamp

Despite the obvious cost pressures on manufacturers, the opportunities to work in the sector are wide and varied. However, as David Grailey, Managing Director of MTC Training explained, the sector needs to take greater responsibility for making manufacturing attractive to inward recruits.

“There’s a wide range of diverse opportunities available in manufacturing; it’s a sector that is multi-faceted and multi-sectoral, and within each of those sectors, there is a huge range of job roles that people can aspire to. However, we need more high-profile stories of why young people should come into the sector. Manufacturing does some amazing things but needs to do more to promote itself.”

He explained the promotion of the sector should focus on both the early growth of talent (i.e., careers fairs, speaking in schools or colleges to raise awareness of the opportunities and diversity that exists), as well as on highlighting the future of a sector which, going forward, will be led by technology.

In addition, there is much that manufacturers can do to manage that talent in the right way; in particular revisiting how new employees are inducted into the business and the opportunities for that talent to grow. “Manufacturers really need to take hold of the development process of an individual and how their role can be enriched,” he said.

“Therefore, it’s really important that there is a commitment from manufacturing to see training development as an investment rather than a cost. I understand that much of the sector is extremely cost-conscious, but training has to be seen as an asset, much like technology, that directly drives tangible improvements in an organisation’s productivity, efficiency and effectiveness, ultimately boosting its profitability.”

David explained that MTC Training has its own part to play in fostering the correct mindset within manufacturing; recognising that the sector needs more people and is prepared to invest both in recruiting those individuals, and then developing and training them once onboard.

“As an example, we are working with Lloyds Bank and the West Midlands Combined Authority to develop a skills bootcamp,” added David. “This will help managers within the sector to identify investment cases for introducing technology and associated skills, thereby making their businesses more efficient and effective, increasing productivity and creating those high value jobs that we all crave – both as employees and employers.

There is a general lack of understanding around the breadth of opportunities on offer in manufacturing

“We’re also working with the National Forum for Engineering Centres to explore how we can best provide leading-edge training which will be disseminated across further education colleges and independent training providers, and then introduced into curriculum. There’s a number of things that need to be done by the sector itself, but also players at the vanguard of innovation like ourselves can help to catalyse positive change.”

Of course, there is an erroneous perception of manufacturing within some circles, which paints the sector as a one-dimensional, dirty, greasy industry which young people would do well to avoid. This is an example of the lack of understanding around the breadth of opportunities on offer. External pressures may impact a manufacturer’s ability to dedicate resource to talent development, but this activity is vital in order to raise the sector’s profile and project its reality among the younger generation.

In addition, the changing zeitgeist in recent years has seen the pursuit of jobs and careers shift far beyond the criteria of mere job function, location and salary. Younger generations now want to work for an organisation with a purpose and one that is making a difference in the world – what the business stands for is often vital to potential job applicants. “If manufacturers can articulate and live their purpose, really engage and relate to young people to highlight their credentials, firms will be far better placed to encourage and attract new talent,” David added.

Lloyds Bank sponsorship

Lloyds Bank has been based in the Midlands since its founding in the middle of the 18th century, coinciding with the start of the first Industrial Revolution. As such, the bank has always been heavily involved in manufacturing.

Having that understanding of the sector and its capabilities has enabled Lloyds Bank to recognise the opportunity to support the Advanced Manufacturing Training Centre (AMTC), MTC Training’s flagship facility in Coventry. This helps to bring through the next generation of talent via its apprenticeship scheme, while also supporting smaller and medium sized businesses through a nationwide SME Support Service.

“This adds value to Lloyds’ offering and differentiates them as a bank that truly understands manufacturing,” added David. As well as an injection of funds each year, Lloyds provides MTC Training with access to individuals such as economists to support specific sessions for its apprentices, whether that’s advice around how to handle money or use particular products such as mortgages.

Lloyds also has individuals responsible for working with schools, and that wider reach will enable MTC Training to raise the profile of manufacturing and help young people consider an apprenticeship as a valued and credible alternative to A levels or university. “The cash sponsorship is important of course,” said David, “because although it doesn’t feed our operations, it allows us to invest in training beyond the apprenticeship standard and delve into new technology that is currently coming online.

That enables us to enrich and elevate the engineering technician apprenticeship standard we offer, which is important because it has to satisfy a whole range of employers from the more traditional right through to high tech, cutting-edge businesses. “The support is really critical in allowing us that input and making sure our apprentices go out into the world of work both with excellent tech skills as well as the all-important professional capabilities and critical thinking that employers tell us they need.”

The future of manufacturing

Apprenticeships and training are clearly critical to the future of the sector; we have an ageing workforce in manufacturing, which harbours a high degree of skill and experience. David added: “We need to bring the next generation through to make sure we don’t lose that existing knowledge, while at the same time, adding to that expertise with the qualities that new talent is renowned for – creativity, flexibility, novel ideas and dynamism – particularly around digital engineering and technology.”

It is this emphasis on the next generation which has seen MTC Training set its sights higher in terms of future ambitions. It is currently exploring opportunities to open new locations, supporting delivery of even more apprenticeships and bespoke training programmes and promoting engineering and manufacturing more widely.

Younger generations now want to work for an organisation with a purpose and one that is making a difference in the world

As well as a focus on ushering new talent into the sector through apprenticeships, MTC Training also offers a wide range of reskilling and upskilling programmes. David continued: “We understand that new entrants are important, but we already have skilled individuals with a wealth of experience in the sector. We need to help them reposition themselves so they can still be involved in the manufacturing of the future.”

The SME Support Service

As part of Lloyds’ sponsorship package, salary support is available to any SME during a new apprentice’s first year of training. In addition, MTC engineering tech experts are available to provide free of charge advice, visit organisations, review existing capabilities and provide guidance on how to realise potential improvements.

David added: “We’ll then look to propose a particular project to that employer whereby we would supplement costs through Reach Funding. That pays for 50% of the project (within the project eligibility criteria) and allows us to help small to medium size enterprises increase their productivity in a very cost-effective way. “

The real philosophy of the programme is to engage with employers and help them to constantly improve their organisations. This approach fosters a longer-term relationship, with the ultimate goal being that they grow, develop and offer more opportunities and employment.”

The skills challenge is undoubtedly more pronounced for SMEs. Organisations of up to 250 employees (the larger end of what would be categorised as an SME) can more easily organise, coordinate and deliver development skills, opportunities and promotions; all those elements that are known to engage potential employees.

However, that’s much more difficult for organisations at the smaller end of that headcount scale, which typically don’t have the bandwidth in terms of people and capability. This means the skills challenge for these SMEs has always been more problematic than for larger organisations.

David added: “I can speak from experience that, at the smaller end of the SME scale, often the amount of time and effort needed to help an apprentice become an effective employee is disproportionate to the amount of time available. SMEs of that size want and need the skills but acquiring them is very difficult as they are often time and cash poor; it can be a catch-22 situation.”

Similar to the support service for SMEs, Lloyds is also supporting the MTC’s new Sustainability Review which will see MTC experts work with manufacturing organisations to explore issues relating to sustainability, identifying where reductions and improvements could be made around waste, cost and recycling. “That’s very pertinent at the moment with the current energy crisis. It’s a business improvement review, but with a focus very much on sustainability,” David added.

The future of the partnership

What MTC Training has done so far around apprenticeships has already been a huge success. Moving forward, the organisation aims to increase access to skills and opportunities by becoming more involved in poorer economic areas and supporting more young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

David continued: “We’d like to identify a process whereby we can help people from economically deprived areas to get involved in engineering and manufacturing. It’s rather like a scholarship idea, where we engage and get them involved at one of MTC Training’s centres in Coventry or Oxfordshire, and bring them onto an apprenticeship programme, possibly even before they have an employer in place. We’ll then support them to progress onto the level three apprenticeship, which we currently run, secure employment and hopefully go on to have a fantastic career.

A word from the sponsor: Q&A with Dave Atkinson, Head of Manufacturing, Lloyds Bank

Dave Atkinson headshotCan you explain why Lloyds Bank is so committed to manufacturing?: As an organisation, our overarching purpose is around helping Britain prosper. Manufacturing is a sector that creates around two and a half million jobs directly (and a further five million indirectly). It’s responsible for over half of all exports from the UK, which brings wealth into the economy, so it’s good for our balance of payments.

It’s also a really innovative sector that invests heavily. Therefore, manufacturing is perfectly aligned with our purpose. We were founded by industrialists, so manufacturing and engineering is in the veins of our organisation going back over 250 years.

Manufacturing has always told us that one of its biggest challenges is finding, not just enough skills, but enough of the right skills. So, if we were going to stay true to our purpose all those years ago and help a sector that is so endemically capable to support the UK economy, then it felt only appropriate that we committed to supporting the AMTC.

How can Lloyds Bank help manufacturers with current challenges?: We know UK manufacturing has faced some challenging times, with ongoing issues around energy costs, broader global disruption which is impacting supply chains, overall market confidence and skills, with around 86,000 unfilled vacancies in the sector.

We know there’s a huge demand on talent and large gaps to be filled. However, when you add inflationary pressures through the cost of living crisis and the demand on wages (plus a situation where demand is currently outstripping supply), then undoubtedly there is added economic pressures on wages and we’ve seen certain skills and talent drawn from one business to another.

We know the UK has some of the world’s best universities, and we also know that when British engineering and manufacturing get something on the factory floor, we produce it very consistently at the highest level. British engineering has a real credible reputation, and people will sometimes pay more for that ‘made in Britain’ mark.

However, a gap, of course, occurred via a breakdown in communication between universities and industry. Therefore, although brilliant products were invented in the UK, a failure to meet Manufacturing Readiness Levels (MRLs) and Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) meant that technologies were only reaching a certain point before falling into what is coined the valley of death. This led to a situation where we were effectively selling all of our innovation abroad and then importing those products back into the UK.

The MTC was one of seven catapults that were set up to bridge that gap. Current Chief Executive of the MTC, Clive Hickman, stated that while having the latest technology in the UK was great, unless there were the skills in the workforce to use it properly, it was going to fall on deaf ears. He had a vision of setting up a training centre to support the upskilling of existing workers as well as the training of new. It needed some funding and we wanted to support a sector with the single biggest challenge that it faced – skills.

We began by putting in £1m a year in 2015, and by 2018 the impact of that centre was starting to be felt, and the volume of trained and upskilled graduates, engineers and apprentices was being seen in industry. We therefore put a business case to extend that to £10m over ten years, through to the end of 2024. We’ve seen the centre go from strength to strength.

It’s a real key strategic partnership of ours, and at a time when the focus on the shortage of skills is greater than I’ve ever seen. We therefore felt it was the right thing to announce an early extension to the existing sponsorship right through to 2030, raising that sponsorship to £15m over 15 years to support the training and upskilling of more than 5,000 graduates, engineers and apprentices.

What are the details of the sponsorship extension with the MTC?: For the apprentices, graduates and engineers, it gives the MTC and the AMTC the confidence to be able to plan ahead with long-term investment; to grow their proposition and the volume of engineers and apprentices being trained.

Secondly, it enables us to build out an enhanced proposition to more broadly support the manufacturing community with support services. It gives us the footprint to be able to refer clients who want to invest, use the MTC skills to de-risk the challenges associated with new technology and change the way their factory floors are laid out to accommodate the different skills that they may or may not have in the business.

And to combat the challenges alluded to earlier, it also enables them to look at how they can operate more effectively to reduce waste, costs and energy consumption to in turn improve profitability. These manufacturing support services have been able to expand even further over the period of the sponsorship.

We know that the challenge to reduce emissions to become more competitive is important. Therefore, the sponsorship has also enabled the MTC to invest in a new proposition with a range of offers to support manufacturers not just understand net zero opportunities, but to implement them as well.

What has been the impact of this sponsorship?: The single biggest success story is the 3,000 plus graduates, engineers and apprentices that have already been trained and upskilled through our sponsorship and support; a figure we’re hoping will rise to well in excess of 5,000 over the remaining term of the strategic partnership and the existing sponsorship.

We’ve also been able to refer clients who are facing or have been faced with different manufacturing challenges, to a reliable, local support service of skilled engineers who can offer a free factory line walk. This can unearth possible solutions to those challenges and add business benefit and value back onto the bottom line; that has been an incredible value add to our client base.

I think we’ve referred around 400 businesses and approximately 100 have actually taken on further programmes with the MTC. They have been able to obtain Reach Funding through government to subsidise the costs of those programmes and in total, that has delivered around £5m of bottom line benefits to those SME businesses, whether it be through increased turnover, reduced costs or energy consumption, better operations and removal of waste; all supported through both the MTC and Lloyds Bank.

It is without doubt a multi-faceted partnership that doesn’t just provide funding for the upskilling of people in industry and to support the new apprentices. It’s got a much broader brush than that, and we’re really proud. It is the jewel in the crown of our strategic partnerships.

What does the future of the partnership look like?: We’re having a number of conversations around how we can continue to work together. We’ve recently announced a much more regular CPD programme to help educate our colleagues, and we’re thinking about new ways of supporting skills in industry.

We’ve just announced the new sustainability proposition to support manufacturers both understand and adapt to net zero opportunities, and we’ve had a number of new enhancements and developments following the extension in the partnership. So we’ve got to give time for those to develop, evolve and embed.

However, this is an ongoing journey and we’re proud to be associated with such a key partner in industry to help our clients with the challenges they’re facing around technology and skills. MTC is a key part of our proposition and one that I think truly differentiates us in the marketplace.

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