Masters of their fate

Posted on 12 Jul 2012 by The Manufacturer

A new skills initiative will raise thousands of manufacturing employees to masters level skills, says Lynn Tomkins, UK operations director of Semta, the sector skills council for science, engineering and manufacturing technologies.

On June 21 Business Secretary Vince Cable attended the launch of the Advanced Skills Accreditation Scheme (ASAS) and commended its innovative approach to resolving the UK’s critical shortage of trained engineers.

The launch of ASAS can act as a catalyst in the move to make advanced manufacturing the driving force for Britain’s economy for years to come.

Semta is partnering with leading universities to deliver the scheme which will also be monitored and developed by an employer board to ensure the content truly meets business needs. The end aim is to provide employers of all sizes across England with access to a flexible programme of master’s degree level training in key technology areas.

Inspiration and targets
ASAS is based on a hugely successful scheme run by Jaguar Land Rover, who will continue to play a leading role in expanding the initiative.

It is anticipated that engineers from 2,000 companies in England will take part in 5,000 master’s degree modules over the next two years. The modules will not be solely focused on automotive, or even engineering, but will span sectors, delivering skills in specific technologies, identified as critical for driving growth and productivity within a range of advanced manufacturing supply chains.

Lynn Tomkins, UK operations director of Semta

Flexible structure
ASAS provides the best courses from the best sources, addressing priority skills gaps identified by employers. There are no academic prerequisites, which means individuals can study without having to register for a full master’s programme, and businesses will be able to access modules as and when required.

Master’s level study would normally require a first degree or significant equivalent evidence (e.g. professional qualifications). As an employer driven – and funded – programme, the only requirement for inclusion in ASAS is that the employer feels the individual has the aptitude for study at master’s level. This enables employers to invest in developing their existing workforce in a flexible manner and provides clear progression routes for new recruits, particularly advanced and higher apprentices.

The need
Only 39% of the advanced manufacturing and engineering workforce aged 25-64 have qualifications at level 4 or above and only 6.9% of engineering staff in SMEs have level 5 qualifications, compared to 17% in large companies. Addressing this skills issue would improve supply chain capability and productivity, creating high value, sustainable jobs as well as realising £9.4billion for UK automotive businesses alone. Currently only 36% of automotive components are produced in the UK out of a potential 80%.

The size of the prize is there for all to see. Our key challenge now is to deliver and our cross sector employer board, including Atkins, BA, BAE Systems, GKN, JCB, MBDA, Nissan, Princess Yachts, Rolls-Royce, Siemens, Tata Steel and Williams Formula 1 is already consulting on how to develop modules in line with recommendations from the wider employer community.

ASAS Employer Board members say:

“Engineering excellence is central to the 170 years of Siemens success here in the UK. Investing in future talent is key to our success. As a business which operates at the leading edge of technology, continuous development of these skills is crucial.” Martin Hottass, UK Skills Partner, Siemens plc

“High level technical skills are critical for Nissan and our supply chain to support our growth ambition and investment in the UK. We are delighted to be working with Semta to develop ASAS across the advanced manufacturing sector” Kevin Fitzpatrick, Vice President, Manufacturing UK Operations, Nissan

“In today’s high tech industry, many companies need operators or engineers with higher skills for multiple skills or roles. This way we can be far more flexible and reactive to changing requirements, helping keep costs to a minimum and ensuring companies remain competitive” Gareth Humphreys MBE, Human Resources, MBDA

Other Semta activities and schemes:

Programmes which work
Four East Midlands companies have managed to save more than £1.4 million while improving their business processes thanks to being brought together for a joint training programme, managed by Semta with the assistance of local training provider Capella, which supplied the Six Sigma Green Belt training.

Malcolm Healey, business partner of Semta in the East Midlands said: “Clustering the training in this way means it is geographically and, most importantly, financially accessible to firms who might ordinarily not feel able to participate.

The participating companies were Sutton in Ashfield-based Midland Aerospace, Flybrid Systems of Silverstone Technology Park, Benteler Automotive from Corby and Bulwell Precision Engineers in Pinxton, Nottinghamshire. The next East Midlands course is due to begin in September.

North East apprenticeships
Leading industrialists from across North East England are running a campaign to boost the number of apprenticeships, as the manufacturing sector looks to lead the region into a new era of economic growth and job creation. The North East Skills Alliance for Advanced Manufacturing, is driving up investment in skills of existing employees to improve performance. The Alliance is also supporting graduate and apprentice recruitment.

The North East Skills Alliance for Advanced Manufacturing, chaired by Kevin Fitzpatrick, Nissan’s vice president for manufacturing in the UK, is being co-ordinated by Semta.

The Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister on a recent tour of Case New Holland which will contribute to Semta’s forthcoming Employer Ownership event on July 23

Developing talent
The Semta Apprenticeship Service identifies barriers faced by SMEs in recruiting apprentices and supplies solutions. The service works with employers to create talent pools. If a candidate does well at a company’s assessment day but just fails to land the job in interview then Semta will work with the individual to place them with an alternative business rather lose their interest in a manufacturing career.

Semta’s Apprenticeship Service was recently described by Ofsted Inspectors as being outstanding in meeting the needs of employers and providing outstanding value for money. Ofsted, also praised the service for increasing the number of women, ethnic minorities and disabled people in the manufacturing workplace.

Framework for the future
Semta has recently developed a higher level apprenticeship in Advanced Manufacturing.

The new employer led framework will not only upskill the existing workforce, it will develop new recruits. It will be available at levels 4 and 6 and will be delivered over a 3-5 year period. The Level 6 Higher Apprenticeship will result in incorporated Engineer status.

The framework, issued in March, has already exceeded its initial target for 250 starts this September.

Showcasing Success
Semta is hosting an Employer Ownership event at the House of Lords on July 23 where employers will explain how the sector skills council has helped them improve productivity through building skills. Speakers will include Colin Larkin, plant director of Case New Holland, Juergen Maier, managing director, Siemens UK Industry Sector and Martin Rigley, managing director of Lindhurst Engineering.

The Employer Ownership pilot offers all employers in England direct access to up to £250 million of public investment over the next two years to design and deliver their own training solutions. The pilot is jointly overseen by UKCES, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department for Education.

For further details on any of the above initiatives please call Semta Customer Services on 0845 643 9001 or email [email protected]