A year on - Alison Bettac, Director of AMRC Training Centre

What a year! Weve gone from a muddy field and no staff to a fully functioning training centre that has already produced its first cohort of apprentices. Im so proud of what weve achieved to date. Other higher and further education institutions are already emulating what we do here. Weve set the bar high and are leading the way.

There have been a few learning points along the way that we are looking to improve on, such as glitches in recruitment and monitoring plus we want to make enhancements to the curriculum. We are always keen to listen to our employers and they have asked for us to deliver more training on business improvement and lean manufacturing. As a result, we will be introducing an electronic dashboard to replace our visual monitoring system and basing the work on a ‘quality, cost, delivery model. We are also focused on looking at progression routes for our young people and in addition to the foundation degree we have in mechanical engineering, are developing electrical engineering and manufacturing technology pathways for 2015. This means our apprentices can work their way right up to a Masters level here in the centre.

Its incredibly rewarding to see the difference in our apprentices from the day they arrived to a year later. To see the skills they have developed is amazing – not just technical but also people. Their behaviours and attitudes have changed dramatically and this is a measure of our success. One particular highlight was when Craig McKay, managing director from Evenort said to me that our apprentices were the best cohort that his company has had in 30 years. Within a week of leaving our centre and arriving back to work the machinists were running their own cell with no supervision. How incredible is that?! Ive been on the other side as an employer and have been through the pain of bedding in new staff, spending six months going through health and safety, teaching them how to read drawings and sitting with machinists. Its so clear that our model is working and for me that makes it all worth it; what we are doing here is different and very rewarding for all involved.

Apprenticeships are changing and employers need to think about how they can advance and continue to grow their young people. There is always room for those that are good at pure craft but with employers looking at advanced technologies mind sets need to change about progression routes. We all know about the shortage of skills in industry so a viable alternative is to grow your own. Developing your apprentices beyond that initial craft stage can give them the depth and breadth of knowledge that they need to add value to your business but consideration needs to be given to the financial and process implications.

Other things we are looking forward to are our Apprentice of the Year awards which we are launching in 2015 – keep an eye on our website for more details coming soon! Well also be holding a graduation ceremony, a first for the UK. And weve been nominated for a Times Higher Education award (THE) in widening participation. Watch this space.

In summary, its going to be a busy year ahead. We are expecting to reach full occupancy, with 250 new apprentices starting at intervals from September 2014 through to March 2015. That combined with our curriculum developments and expanding our progression routes will make for an interesting year!

A year on - Alison Bettac, Director of AMRC Training Centre

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