National Apprenticeship Week 2023: From shop floor to top floor with LISI Aerospace’s Marcin Klaczek

Posted on 10 Feb 2023 by James Devonshire

With apprenticeships firmly under the spotlight this week, who better to speak with than the winners of the People & Skills category at last year's TMMX Awards, LISI Aerospace. James Devonshire recently caught up with Marcin Klaczek, organisational development coordinator at LISI Aerospace and an apprentice himself, to discover more about the company's apprenticeship initiatives.

The manufacturing industry has gone through an immense transformation over the years, particularly in recent times, to the point where it’s no longer all about lathes, pillar drills and mechanical press brakes. Of course, while such machines do still exist, the reality is that many manufacturing facilities are modern, clean and packed with innovative technology.

This reality in itself should be enough to encourage younger generations to consider a career in manufacturing. After all, young people love using technology (if my own children are anything to go by at least), so why wouldn’t they relish the opportunity to do so daily as an apprentice, learn while on the job and be paid for the privilege!? It’s a topic Lisi Aerospace’s Marcin is passionate about.

Marcin Klaczek, organisational development coordinator at LISI Aerospace
Marcin Klaczek, organisational development coordinator at LISI Aerospace

Marcin has over a decade of experience from his role at Lisi Aerospace, where he has honed his skills in various processes and continuous improvement. As an in-house trainer, he offers expert guidance in project management, lean manufacturing, CoSHH, and abrasive wheel training. In this time of digital transformation, Marcin is dedicated to maximising the potential of apprenticeships to close skills gaps and prepare for the future. He is a key player in elevating the company’s reputation through prestigious awards and accreditations and is passionate about promoting outstanding apprenticeship programs across a diverse range of business areas.

JD: Can you tell us a little about LISI Aerospace?

LISI Aerospace has had a presence in the UK since 1939, albeit previously under a different name. Today, the company’s only UK production facility in Rugby, which employs around 276 people, specialises in the manufacture of titanium fasteners and structural components for aircrafts made by Airbus, Embraer, Bombardier and more. Part of the wider LISI Group, LISI Aerospace exists alongside two other divisions: LISI Automotive and LISI Medical.

Globally, LISI Aerospace boasts more than 5,000 employees in 17 facilities in 7 countries around the world, the division assists the main aircraft manufacturers and system manufacturers in developing major innovation programmes, in order to develop the aircraft of tomorrow, which are safer and more environmentally-friendly.

How about your apprenticeship programme?

Our apprenticeship programme began a number of years ago and we’ve been honing it ever since to ensure it best meets our needs, our apprentices’ needs and the needs of the aerospace industry.

In terms of meeting our own needs, we know that we’re going to need some very specific skills in the not too distant future. Our smart factory project will see us implement several new machines, each of which will feature dozens of sensors. The data generated from said sensors is where a lot of the value of this project is going to stem from, which is why we need people who are capable of visualising and analysing said data. We currently don’t have such skills, which is why we are looking to bridge this gap with software engineering and data analytics degree apprentices.

The second aspect is all of our new machines are going to have new requirements in terms of maintenance. Again, we don’t have the necessary skills and knowledge at present but we are working with external organisations, such as the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) to develop our apprentices in these areas, so they are confident and competent working with all the exciting new technology we have on site.

It’s also worth noting that we don’t limit ourselves to having apprentices in just shop floor roles. We’ve also got apprentices in HR, finance, IT, quality and other areas, highlighting how important they are to our business.

Lisi Aerospace internal shot

LISI Aerospace is anticipating future needs by securing the talent it needs now in the form of apprentices

Your apprenticeships are also open to existing employees too, right?

That’s right. At LISI, we’re very big on recognising talent, in particular people’s attitudes. If a person’s attitude is right and they are a good fit within our team, we can teach them the skills to be successful. That’s why we offer apprenticeships to existing employees who show potential and perhaps want to upskill in different areas.

As well as other members of our team, I’m currently an apprentice, undertaking a Level 5 apprenticeship. I started on the shop floor 11 years ago using basic machines before transitioning to my current office-based role. I’m now based in process development and am responsible for various aspects such as delivering training, continuous improvement and looking after our apprentices on site.

Where does your role fit in with apprenticeships?

So we have an in-house procedure for when someone is looking to hire an apprentice. A need is identified and a budget is put aside for the following year to cover the cost. I then have a discussion with the relevant manager to find out more about what they are looking for. I then go away and try to identify the best apprenticeship standard for the role that we have identified. From there, I start contacting different training providers, both ones we already work with, as well as new parties if necessary.

I also recently submitted the necessary requirements to become an Apprenticeship Ambassador for the West Midlands region. It’s a government initiative designed to boost awareness of apprenticeships and see them actively championed by like-minded people who are passionate about them. I’m really looking forward to contributing and collaborating with my fellow ambassadors to share best practices, which will inevitably open up more opportunities for us and our students.

We’re also working with Next Gen Makers towards the “Engineering Apprenticeships: Best Practice Programme kitemark”, which recognises companies who achieve a best practice benchmark, and endorses them as an exemplary employer of apprentices.

What is LISI doing to encourage more people to consider apprenticeships?

We’re holding an open day on February 9 for National Apprenticeship Week 2023. It will be an opportunity for local school children and their parents to come along and learn more about what we do at LISI and also what it’s like to work here. One of the most important aspects we want to highlight is how modern manufacturing facilities are nothing like most people imagine.

The perception is that manufacturing plants are greasy, dirty and, generally not that pleasant environments to work in. But the reality is that many aren’t like this at all. Our facility is bright, clean and full of innovative technology. Of course, there’s still some traditional equipment but thanks to digital transformation, the majority of our machines are significantly advanced.

We also recently attended an event at the nearby MTC where we got the opportunity to speak with more than 100 young people to raise awareness about apprenticeship opportunities, how it is a great way to kick start a successful career and how manufacturing has changed significantly over the years, to become a leader in developing new technologies and new talent.

Finally, we are getting involved with an Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education Trailblazer Group to help develop a cold forging apprenticeship alongside other employers from the industry.

Lisi Aerospace internal shot2

Like many manufacturing facilities these days, LISI Aerospace’s plant is clean, bright and full of innovative technology

Do you miss working on the shop floor?

I do a little but it’s not like I’m far away as our office is situated alongside the shop floor and I can see the machines from my window. I also spend quite a bit of time down in the plant talking to people, running projects and getting involved in the day-to-day activities to make things better. What’s really enjoyable and rewarding about my role though is that I can drive changes and support people if they want to develop themselves. That’s a really satisfying aspect of my work.

And I’m in a really good position to do all of this given my background and the fact I used to work on the factory floor. I can better relate to people and empathise with their struggles.

What advice do you have for people considering an apprenticeship?

Don’t be put off as there are few obstacles standing in the way nowadays. While good grades are important, the subjects you take don’t matter all that much. For example, one of our current apprentices did geography as one of their A levels. As long as a person’s attitude is right and they are keen to learn, then they can have a successful career by following the apprenticeship route.

Reach out to manufacturers in your local area and ask if you can come in for a day or half a day to find out more about what they do. You’ll probably be surprised at the diverse range of roles and the amazing facilities you’ll come across.

How can manufacturers encourage young people to embark on an apprenticeship?

Whenever I talk to young people about manufacturing, they are always fascinated by the innovation and technology. When we mention how we contribute to the aeroplanes and explain the processes we have, as well as all the cool stuff like robots, they’re often hooked. It’s also important to explain to people at relevant events how a manufacturing apprenticeship can be the start of a very successful career, something that many don’t realise.

Manufacturing is no longer about working with dirty old machines; it’s new technology, it’s programming, it’s software, it’s data and more.

The bottom line is companies need to be active in their local communities and get their name known among the future generations of talent.

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