Industry works to shape future engineers

Sam Jackson, 22, a Darron SBO-sponsored apprentice at AMRC
Sam Jackson, 22, a Darron SBO-sponsored apprentice at AMRC
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MANUFACTURERS across South Yorkshire have teamed up with one of the region’s top universities to attract more young people into engineering.

University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) is currently training 160 apprentices since securing funding in October last year and is set to take on another 250 from September.

The centre, which works with businesses and charitable foundations, offers technical qualifications in addition to wider employment training.

It comes as manufacturers in the region struggle to plug a skills gap in the industry as growth increases.

Kerry Featherstone, head of operations at the AMRC Training Centre, said businesses are keen to bring in talented young workers who can grow with the business.

“AMRC has the equipment to replicate the emerging technology these businesses are using,” she said.

“The apprentices are in employment from day one, and the businesses benefit as they gain apprentices with real skills who can hit the ground running.”

Apprentices attend the AMRC full-time for 26 or 38 weeks, before joining their company and training at the centre one day a week. AMRC staff also assess apprentices in the workplace before they achieve their qualifications in three to four years.

Rotherham-based firm Darron SBO are one of the businesses that is sponsoring apprenticeships through the AMRC.

Head of quality control Denis Smith said the company, which has 10 apprentices attending AMRC, is impressed by the standard of training provided at the centre.

He said: “The calibre of the people coming through the AMRC is impressive. They’re focused, they’re enthusiastic, they’re capable. The more advanced apprentices who have attended AMRC have also shown a marked improvement.”

Mr Smith said the current skills shortage in the industry “is really starting to bite”.

Darron SBO currently has three apprentices lined up to start training in September, including 22-year-old Sam Jackson, who secured his position through a JobCentre Plus employability programme.

In addition to experiencing technical work, the two-week course included CV writing training and interview skills, provided by charitable foundation Work-wise.

The business-led organisation has been working with AMRC to provide young people with an experience of the engineering industry through two-week training centres throughout the summer. Around 70 young people aged between 14 and 25 attended, with 48 being placed into apprenticeships within the AMRC. Eight of those were 20 to 25-year-olds who were out of work, such as Mr Jackson.

Work-wise, which is backed by around 120 manufacturing companies mainly across Sheffield and Rotherham, also hopes to raise the profile of the industry and dispel misconceptions about a career in engineering.

Work-wise associate John Barber said: “Young people have lost interest in engineering in recent years.

“It was considered grubby, grimy, low-paid work, which it clearly isn’t – you’ve got engineers earning the same as doctors.

“We want young people to get a feel for the industry, to inform and inspire them towards a career in manufacturing.”

The project is backed by large employers such as Sheffield Forgemasters International, AESSEAL and Newberg Engineering, as well as smaller companies.

In addition to technically-skilled workers, it aims to attract management and finance talent to the sector.

“This is industry-led, it’s about businesses coming together to solve a problem,” Mr Barber said.