It’s time for industry and young people to step up to the skills table according to the boss of Shropshire’s most advanced training centre.
Matt Snelson, Managing Director of the Marches Centre of Manufacturing & Technology (MCMT), used the £4m facility’s first birthday to issue a major call to arms for local firms, schools and pupils to take full advantage of the courses and capabilities now on offer in Bridgnorth.
He believes that the employer-led consortium has fulfilled its part of the bargain by tailoring trailblazer apprenticeship courses to generate the engineers of the future and assembling an array of technical partners that can give SMEs access to machinery and ‘tech’ usually outside of their financial reach.
More than 200 delegates heard how the MCMT had met its initial targets of apprentices and upskilling opportunities, yet the bigger challenge awaits with apprenticeship recruitment ramping up rapidly and a commitment to deliver hundreds of upskilling courses.
“There’s an old saying that ‘build it and they will come’…well now is the time for industry, our schools, parents and people – both young and old – to prove that theory,” explained Matt Snelson.
“The first twelve months have been fantastic, but we don’t have the time to sit back and reflect on what we’ve achieved. We have strong targets to meet and there is still a real problem with skills in engineering and manufacturing, with many experts predicting firms experience – on average – a near 12% churn in staff every year.”
He continued: “What this means in layman’s terms is that companies will need to replace the workers they are losing and should to be looking to recruit a minimum of three apprentices per hundred employees each year in order to just stand still.
“Equally important is the need to futureproof your workforce to ensure they have the skills you are going to require in the longer-term. That’s exactly what we are offering at MCMT with a lot of the equipment being the same as the technology our apprentices will be operating when they go out on to the employer’s shopfloor and engineering functions.
“We believe we have put together the best trainers, the best equipment and the best courses, but we are also more than happy to hear from employers about new things we can offer. You need us and we need you, in order to ensure we continue to offer this essential training provision in Shropshire.”
The Marches Centre of Manufacturing & Technology is an employer-led consortium of Classic Motor Cars, Grainger & Worrall, Salop Design & Engineering and In-Comm Training and has received £1.9m of Government Growth Deal funding via the Marches LEP to bring the concept into reality.
It operates two state-of-the-art facilities in Bridgnorth and Shrewsbury and was set-up to help bridge the skills and competency gaps found in local industry, providing apprentices and thousands of upskilling opportunities between now and 2020.
MCMT marked its one-year anniversary by celebrating the achievements of its first cohort of students, who will now go on to spend four days per week at their employer as part of the next stage of their apprenticeships.
All of the apprentices passed their first year and have also supported a special Engineering Club for Kids and a number of activities designed to promote a career in industry, including school talks and interviews with the press and TV.
Matthew concluded: “When we opened in 2017, people said we must be so proud of what we have achieved. I disagreed at the time as it was just the start.
“Looking at our first cohort and how much they have developed in twelve months, not to mention the potential they have to make a massive impact in industry…that’s what makes us all proud.”
Apprenticeships aren’t just for teenagers
Shaun Macken is proving that there is no age constraint to becoming an apprentice having just enrolled on a maintenance mechatronics engineering trailblazer at the age of 36 years-old.
He’s only eight weeks into his current course and has already used previous experience to fly through the first tasks and is now looking forward to testing his skills on the MCMT’s £1m CNC Zone, which features 3 and 5-axis machines.
“I’ve had a few different jobs and as long as I had enough money to go out with my mates and a few holidays a year I was quite happy,” pointed out Shaun.
“That all changed when my little girl arrived in 2016. I now had someone else to provide for and I wanted to actually look at developing a career as opposed to just doing a job. Obviously, it’s not as easy as that.”
He went on to add: “Attending careers fairs at my age was a little daunting, but I knew if I managed to get in front of an employer I’d be able to convince them to give me a chance and that’s what happened with household product manufacturer CEDO in Telford.”
Shaun admits the first few days were quite difficult at MCMT, with most of the other cohort half his age, but that soon changed as soon they were all learning and doing the same things.
“A lot of my jokes go over their heads and I don’t think many of them have seen Back To The Future, but now I’m just seen as another member of the cohort. My previous jobs probably give me a practical advantage, although the youngsters certainly have the edge with maths and some of the new technology we will be using.”
He concluded: “It’s all about the bigger picture. I’m learning lots of new skills that will help me become a Maintenance Engineer and then I can keep developing and moving up the career ladder. Hopefully, making my little girl proud along the way.”