Semta: Full focus on skills

Posted on 7 May 2013 by The Manufacturer

Lynn Tomkins, UK Operations Director for Semta, shares the ambitious work the sector skills council is undertaking to help UK manufacturing increase its contribution to the national economy.

With over 128,000 companies and a 1.66 million strong workforce, Government recognises it is vital for the future of the UK economy that manufacturing thrives and employs highly skilled people in forward-thinking, hi-tech environments.

To support this Semta is leading a broad range of initiatives to raise the skills profile of the industry – especially for SMEs, the majority segment of UK manufacturing and that which holds the highest growth potential.

Making it easier for SMEs to hire and train graduates is one example and Semta was recently awarded a contract by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) to provide grants to companies with fewer than 250 employees to do just this.

We helped recruit 200 graduates over six months via the Employer Investment Fund, offering £1,000 grants to SMEs who would employ an out of work graduate for at least 12 weeks.

But this is just one way Semta has been helping firms across the UK access funding, mentor and train apprentices and graduates, assess their supply chain capability, produce company training plans and provide high quality work programmes. The benefits of the broad swath of Semta’s work on skills are demonstrably evident from the shop floor to the managing director.

Here is a snapshot of some of the ways we have worked with employers over the past year.

Asmech Systems Limited, Nottinghamshire. Employees: 16

Asmech Systems Limited design, engineer, manufacture, install and service their entire product range that includes slat conveyors, side gripper elevators, bottle palletisers, tray packers and loop invertors.

Shane Gunstone left school aged 16 to become an apprentice plater/welder and founded Asmech in 1995.

He expects its workforce to increase from 16 to 25 and turnover to double to more than £5 million over the next Asmech Systems Limited, Nottinghamshire Employees 16 three years. Shane worked with Semta, to recruit, train and provide ongoing support for apprentices. As a result he has taken on two apprentices and plans to take at least one a year going forward. He was impressed with both the rigorous recruitment and the ongoing support the company and the youngsters receive.

Kyle Commins and Adam Fox, both 16, joined Asmech as apprentice engineers and spend one day a week at North Notts College as part of their training.

“They are first-class apprentice engineers, with a fantastic attitude and I really appreciate the job Semta continues to do with them,” said Shane.

“Modern engineering is not about shoeing horses and pouring molten metal – it is so much more than that and it is important as employers we engage with local schools to show them what we are all about.

“We would recommend other companies to use Semta because they work in partnership to get the best results. That is what all businesses need.”

Shane Gunstone, owner, Asmech Systems Ltd
Shane Gunstone, owner, Asmech Systems Ltd

“Modern engineering is not about shoeing horses and pouring molten metal – it is so much more than that and it is important as employers we engage with local schools to show them what we are all about”Shane Gunstone

Consarc Engineering, Glasgow. Employees: 48

A major expansion has opened the doors to new orders and seen Consarc Engineering take on a Modern Apprentice for the first time in many years.

Consarc, part of the Inductotherm Group, specialises in vacuum engineering. It has over 40 years of technical experience in design and manufacture of a wide range of advanced vacuum furnaces and controlled atmosphere furnaces for the processing of metals, speciality alloys and engineered materials.

Consarc recently opened an expansion of its facility based on current orders and prospects in the aerospace, Consarc Engineering, Glasgow Employees 48 industrial gas turbines, nuclear and special steels sectors.

The extension has allowed the company to increase its workforce in engineering, manufacturing and service with new mechanical/ electrical engineers and service engineers joining the team – including a modern apprentice and a graduate.

Managing Director Eric Rennie said: “With an ageing workforce and a growing order book we were faced with the same problem many engineering companies have and it is something we needed to address.”

One of Consarc's apprentices
One of Consarc's apprentices

Mr Rennie met with Semta and an assessment was done of the company’s skills needs. Discussions were held about potential funding and during the meeting a training provider, East Kilbride Group Training Association (EKGTA), was contacted and secured to support Consarc’s apprenticeship programme.

“Having not taken on an apprentice for some time we needed support and Semta provided it, giving us access to funding, a good training provider and advice. They understood what we needed.”

“It has never been more important for firms like ours to grow our own skills,” said Eric. “Modern apprentices and graduates are vital to replace the highly skilled engineers who will soon be retiring.”

Despite the recession, the firm is growing 20% year on year, with just under half of production being exported.

Mollertech Cwmfelinfach, Newport. Employees: 320

A strong partnership with a local college, combined with support from Semta and the Welsh Government, is helping plastic injection moulding specialist Mollertech shape the future of a new generation of skilled workers.

Mollertech recently won ‘Best Company 2012’ at the Pathway to Apprenticeships (PtA) Awards in recognition of its commitment to the programme, which helps employers recruit apprentices and gives unemployed young people in Wales a valuable opportunity to gain experience and, in many cases, employment.

Mollertech makes the interior plastic trims for the automotive sector. Customers include Honda, Nissan, BMW and Toyota. The business has two apprentices thanks to PtA and plans to recruit more in the near future.

Maintenance manager Geraint Taylor said: “It is a Mollertech Cwmfelinfach, Newport Employees 320 fantastic scheme. We work closely with Coleg Gwent, Cross Keys, giving selected unemployed youngsters a proper taste of manufacturing.

“Around 30 took part last year, each of them spending a period of time alongside our highly skilled team members.

“All were at a high standard, but two of them absolutely stood out with commitment, enthusiasm, and a keenness to learn. They showed a real interest that will enable them to quickly gain knowledge.”

Mollertech made the necessary arrangements in its budget to allow Oliver Barton and Joe Black to begin their multiskilled apprenticeship in the maintenance area.

“Without PtA it would have been impossible to justify recruitment,” says Geraint. “Semta and the college do all the initial criteria for basic training, which previously employers would have had to fund. We can cherry pick from high calibre candidates who have already been vetted. It is then up to the youngsters to use the process like a long interview to impress the employer.”

Geraint says Semta and the college provide the backbone to PtA. “The support from Semta Wales’s staff and the college is fantastic. They help each apprentice through college and audit the process to make sure the are progressing and that we are meeting our obligations.”

In England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – Semta is focussed on closing skills gaps in the supply chain, recruiting new talent through apprentices and graduates, and helping employers access any funding available.

To arrange for one of Semta’s specialists to come out and visit you please contact Semta on 0845 643 9001 or via email [email protected].