Skills provision Sheffield Style

Posted on 5 Feb 2013

Will Stirling reviews the multitude of skills activities bossed by the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre with Boeing’s Training Centre.

The Global Manufacturing Festival in Sheffield is divided into four streams where visitors can gain specialist knowledge and business opportunities: Aerospace, Medical, Nuclear and Renewable Energy.

But skills provision is the theme that unites all of these.

Alison Bettac has been very busy. In just a year and a bit as director of training at the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre with Boeing, Ms Bettac, with the help of key individuals at the Sheffield Local Enterprise Partnership and other stakeholders, has built several programmes to get manufacturing training up to the level that employers require.

The following are some projects developed by the AMRC Training Centre that will be explained at the GMF 2013 in April.

The Sheffield City Region LEP Manufacturing Skills Strategy

A strategy developed by the Skills Lead for Manufacturing with input from the regional LEP, local employers, sector skills council Semta, manufacturers’ body EEF and its membership.

Stakeholders are debating developing this into a national strategy. Among other aspects, it is developing training pathways for two key roles in manufacturing:

  • Commercial sales engineer – because of the need to develop individuals to optimise wealth creation through UK and international markets
  • Operational management – to produce the operations directors and factory managers of the future. Employer feedback said they had skilled engineers and good management but not a blend of both skills.

Both pathways are available to start from 16-years old. “UKCES, the Technology Strategy Board and BIS saw the group in December and pending UKCES approval a bid to the Employer Pilot Fund (check) will be submitted in March,” says Alison Bettac. “The bid is backed and endorsed by employers.”

Engineering Exchange Portal

A work in progress website that serves as a portal for a range of engineering enquiries, including:

Skills needs, funding, supply chain skills requirements, training resources and providers. The portal is being constructed and currently funded by Made in Sheffield, a 150-strong company consortium run by Charles Turner of Durham Duplex.

“The Engineering Exchange came about from employer demand for a one-stop information shop for engineers and recruits. The plan is to have an exchange in every HVM Catapult,” says Miss Bettac.

Enhanced model for Higher Level Apprenticeships

The AMRC Training Centre has devised an enhanced model to deliver Higher Level Apprenticeships.

Five of the seven HVM Catapult Centres (the AMRC with Boeing is one of these) have joined a collaborative bid for the Employer Ownership Pilot to fund this programme.

Some of the HVM Catapults can facilitate apprenticeships up to NVQ Level 7 and beyond (equivalent to doctoral level). The demand for this, again, comes from employers.

The AMRC and its partners advocate a ‘one centre approach’ to training. Apprentices would study at the Catapult centre only, without shuttling between the centres and a college. This could save employers money by, for example, reducing the apprentices’ total study by one year, says Miss Bettac.

What is the main difference in the Enhanced Model to the normal route to a higher apprentice?

Under the normal route, an apprentice receives an NVQ, a secondary technical certificate and some personal development elements such as employee rights and responsibilities.

“The enhanced model returns to the standards akin to the original Engineering Industry Training Board syllabus, where the NVQ part will be a lot more extensive than it is now,” says Bettac. The enhanced model will include master classes in more managerial disciplines: lean manufacturing, continuous improvement, statistical analysis and presentation skills.

“These extra components aim to produce a more rounded person capable of doing business as well as having a trade.”

The model draws upon some elements of the EEF 2012 Skills survey, Skills for Growth, including what skills companies need to nurture internally to be more effective in R&D and design engineering.

Skills Surgery hosted at GMF 2013

The Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre Training Centre, with partners and other providers, will host an all day, drop-in surgery at the AMRC at the GMF exhibition on April 18th.

Staff will explain the two programmes featured here and will provide advice around access to funded skills activities including Fit 4 Nuclear, the Sharing for Growth Programme and support for different apprenticeship pathways.

Timings TBC but assume the surgery will run most of the day.

Consider two pathways into a higher level engineering job (see below diagram).

Candidates from route one have several advantages, says Alison Bettac. “In our experience, the long-term higher level apprentice is a more rounded employee, he knows how the things he has learned are applied to the business, is more savvy about commerce, and is better at interacting with people in the business. They are world’s apart to a university graduate,” she says.

In addition to all this, the AMRC Training Centre with the Sheffield LEP have pledged to sign 140 companies to their separate AMRC apprentice scheme by September. To date, 120 companies have signed up. The scheme is open to companies outside the Sheffield City Region.

“We are looking at a hosting a residential programme, at the halls of residence [University of Sheffield] and with host families for 16-17 year olds,” Bettac says.

MTA- AMRC apprenticeship training programme

The Manufacturing Technologies Association is co-hosting an apprenticeship event at the AMRC on February 8. Called the ‘Commercial Engineering Framework’ it is designed for training in emerging technologies in machining metals and composites, and incorporates business management and a foreign language.

The AMRC Training Centre and the MTA are developing the pathways for it. See p85 for more on the Commercial Engineering Framework.