Trevor Siddoway

Member Article

Apprenticeships - collaboration could be the way forward

By Trevor Siddoway, Commercial Manager, SONE Products Ltd

The uncertain economy continues to impact on many financial decisions both within the home and in business, so it is hardly surprising that companies are finding it difficult to commit to the responsibility of taking on apprentices when many have such a short work horizon - let alone the years of financial (and moral) obligation that come with appointing apprentices.

This stagnation has huge implications for the UK’s ability to confidently bid for new work and attract inward investment, let alone the region’s ability to pull its economic weight.

The idea of sharing an apprenticeship by collaborating with another, non-competing or complementary organisation is therefore a possibility well worth exploring and we are pleased to have done so.

In my company’s situation, SONE Products in Stanley, it was not because we had difficulty committing to the financial outlay, nor do we suffer from a short work horizon, but as a company operating within the specialised area of polymer processing, the appropriate level of tuition was not available for our apprentices at the local college, due to insufficient demand for this type of course.

What we required was a way of devising our own framework but working with a larger organisation to use their resources as a platform for delivering the necessary training and qualifications.

In discussion at an industry networking event, we were delighted to discover a company that fitted the bill perfectly - an organisation with much larger resources and established relationships with industry – Siemens Energy Service(Siemens).

Based in east Newcastle, Siemens possesses a Skills Funding Agency contract of its own and is a recognised and highly successful provider of training for engineering apprentices. Siemens is inspected for the quality of its training in the same way as a further education college, but the difference lies in the breadth of knowledge and practical skills that Siemens can provide from its vast industrial site where apprentices are able to gain a really broad range of skills such as the ability to make machined parts, health & safety awareness, fork lift truck driving and a general commercial awareness backed by business management skills.

This newly formed partnership with Siemens is allowing SONE, under a Service Level Agreement, to offer a structured apprenticeship scheme of its own over three years.

The cost for the qualification is borne by Siemens under its Skills Funding Agency contract and now we are able to offer young people the opportunity to commence a career with us in a technical role.

As part of our apprenticeship partnering scheme, we are offering a unique opportunity for individuals to complete a three year engineering apprenticeship in which they learn the skills needed to start a career path as a fully qualified electro mechanical or polymer technician with recognised experience behind them.

The programme comprises two parts: Thirty weeks of knowledge based study at college where apprentices study towards a BTEC National Diploma, followed by 42 weeks of practical training with Siemens. Those who successfully complete part one will be offered a further 18-month programme of on the job training at our manufacturing facility, gaining experience and seeing first-hand the challenges that come with running a modern manufacturing facility.

If we as a region are to thrive in the future, attracting new blood into our engineering industry is vital. I realise that not every company finds itself in such a fortunateposition but it is well worthwhile to consider this type of approach if your budgets are stretched or if you cannot find the right standard of training on your doorstep. Young people, keen to launch their careers, need all the help we can give them.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Leigh Chelton .

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