Supporting skills development in advanced manufacturing and engineering

February 4, 2019

As the region strives to build on existing strengths in advanced manufacturing and engineering to attract high-quality jobs to the area, Sunderland College is supporting employers to develop a workforce for the future

Sunderland College boasts a proven track record for success and flexibility in approach as a training provider for the manufacturing and engineering industry.

Building a workforce for the future

Last year, the college commenced delivery of an Engineering Technician Level 3 apprenticeship standard which it is now running successfully in its second year. An apprenticeship standard programme is a new type of targeted training being delivered as part of the government’s ongoing national apprenticeship reforms. Apprentices spend their first year on-site at Sunderland College and progress to an employer in year two of the programme.

Employers that the college works in partnership with for this specialist programme include global automotive manufacturers Adient and Calsonic Kansei, German technology company ZF and Gestamp UK Ltd in Washington.

Working further with global manufacturer, Calsonic Kansei, the college is creating another apprenticeship programme to support the company in filling a skills gap. Apprentices will study an engineering Level 3 qualification, aligned to a materials processing and finishing pathway, and will spend three block weeks at the college before moving to day-release. This qualification is an excellent opportunity for advanced manufacturing staff who do not have an academic background but have extensive industry experience.

To support the SME sector within the manufacturing and engineering industry, Sunderland College has been delivering a Level
3 Engineering apprenticeship framework for employers such as Connor Solutions – an electronic manufacturing services company in Houghton-le- Spring, SMH Products – a manufacturer based in South Shields, Variable Messaging Signs – based in Hebburn, Lynch Healthcare – based in Sunderland and Encore Envelopes Ltd in Washington. Apprentices spend one day a week at college, to develop a portfolio of work and evidence, with the remainder of the week with their employer.

Raising standards

Advanced manufacturing and engineering employers such as Calsonic Kansei, ZF, SAPA Profiles and Connor Solutions are seeking the guidance of Sunderland College to help them utilise their apprenticeship levy to upskill their staff. Current staff are now undertaking an HNC Engineering apprenticeship programme to upskill and gain a higher education qualification.

Apprenticeships can be tailored to specific roles so are a flexible solution to training and developing staff. They can also be used to tackle skills shortages, fill skills gaps and gain higher level skills.

Innovative training and recruitment solutions

Sunderland College is providing bespoke training and qualifications to employers such as global manufacturer Liebherr. The college devised a Coded Welder training session, which is frequently delivered to current welding staff to ensure they are working at the right level.

For employers looking to hire apprentices within engineering, the College has a robust recruitment and selection process that is bespoke for each employer’s needs and aligned to their requirements. It usually involves a theoretical aptitude test, a practical aptitude test, and an interview with an
expert trainer assessor. It provides employers with an effective way of recruiting new talent.

Preparing students for industry

Sunderland College is committed to preparing students for working in the advanced manufacturing and engineering sector and ensuring that the college environment reflects industry practice. The college works closely with the vice president and health and safety manager at Calsonic Kansei to ensure industry approaches in health and safety are mirrored at college, in addition to general work skills such as timekeeping and punctuality.

Engineering students, based at the college’s city campus, have engaged in a unique work placement with Unipres, to prepare them for a future career in the industry.

Students can acquire and develop a range of skills and competencies including creativity, innovation, problem-solving, teamwork, communication and career awareness through an Industrial Cadets programme, which is accredited with an Industrial Cadets Silver Award.

Students are also given an Industrial Cadets Network card, which provides them with exclusive access to the Online Network; an online platform designed to connect them with employers and other cadets.

It provides students with further enrichment and information, access to job opportunities, events and advice and links to further training, helping the students to develop skills further and pursue a rewarding career path.

Sunderland College also welcomed a group of German apprentices from European engineering company Thyssen Krupp Rothe Erde, for a tour of the specialist engineering facilities at the College’s City Campus. Roballo Engineering in Peterlee (a Thyssen Krupp Rothe Erde company) arranged the visit for apprentices from Dortmund who were visiting the North East.

The German apprentices also had the opportunity to meet advanced manufacturing and engineering apprentices who are studying at Sunderland College and training with local employers Calsonic Kansei and ZF, to compare their apprenticeship training with their British counterparts.

Enriching the student experience with industry standard facilities and work practices is one way of many that the college is continuing to support skills development and growth in these key sectors.

Sunderland College

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