The Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) is at the cutting edge of manufacturing, developing new technologies and processes for British industry.
Opened in 2011, the MTC started with six employees and now has three buildings and a workforce of more than 350. This includes 27 apprentices in the workplace and 36 apprentices currently at college who will move on to the MTC’s new training centre when it opens in September 2015.
“Over the next few years, the MTC will grow to employ over 200 apprentices at any one time, developing their skills for the benefit of manufacturing SMEs in the Midlands and across the UK. Many apprentice programmes stop at NVQ level three; the MTC is committed to going beyond level three by developing high-value manufacturing skills to levels four and five, and onwards towards a degree.” says John Male, managing director of the Advanced Manufacturing Training Centre at the MTC.
In 2014, the MTC was named as one of the top 100 apprenticeship employers in the country by the UK skills development body City & Guilds, recognising the centre’s success in developing the engineers of the future.
This rapidly growing organisation, which constantly has an eye on the future, believes that apprentices will once again form the backbone of the manufacturing industry.
“The MTC took on apprentices even before the building was completed,” says Tim Kyte, apprentice training manager for the MTC. “It was a conscious decision by our CEO, Dr Clive Hickman, who realised that with the technological advance, we could not recruit the technical staff and engineers that would be required in the future.”
Skill shortages, particularly in technical and engineering environments, are a major concern for British manufacturing.
Tim explains, “We decided to bring apprentices into the business, place them into different technology areas, help them progress with us, and then they could move on to our members, SMEs or other employers in the UK.”
“We do have advanced technology that apprentices are trained to use, however, they also need to understand the fundamentals of engineering. Every great engineer needs a back-up of these basics and we train them in both at the MTC.”
The MTC has over 80 member companies they work with, including SMEs. Tim recognises there are still many companies who haven’t considered employing apprentices. He says, “The great advantage we have is that we can place our apprentices within these organisations, directly in their project and theme areas. It’s getting others to see these benefits and thinking ‘we need to buy into that’.”
The MTC has supported both its members and local SMEs with this concept and has been skilled in its work to shape the future workforce, adapting apprenticeship frameworks to meet a changing industry.
“This is one of the reasons that led to building the MTC’s Advanced Manufacturing Training Centre,” says Tim. “Not only would we have a facility for research and development, but we would train people beforehand or through membership placements so they would be at the cutting edge of technology. This means we could develop them from an apprenticeship right up to chartered engineer status.”
Attracting women into the field of engineering has traditionally been another key challenge for British industry. But not for the MTC, which is proactive in recruiting women into the business, with a higher than average percentage of female engineers across the business as well as female apprentices.
One of the new apprentices is Kerry Smith who is in her first year as an MTC apprentice.
Kerry says, “I had a long hard think about what I really wanted to do. I spoke to my friends about what they were doing and thought about my passions and what I wanted to achieve in life. I felt that an apprenticeship would be much more beneficial than going back to university and it would give me real-life skills rather than just academic skills.”
As a first-year apprentice, Kerry spends her time at college studying towards a BTEC Level 3 in Engineering and NVQ Level 3, which gives both the academic and practical skills required. Kerry spends two days a week in the workshop at college studying and having practical lessons on milling, turning and fitting. Once apprentices develop skills across manufacturing processes and tool room techniques they get involved in the MTC’s research themes, learning valuable skills to aid their progression into a long term career in engineering.
Kerry also highly values the expertise and support from her colleagues, “The members of staff are really keen to make you feel part of the team by helping you develop, grow and learn new skills.”
Kerry’s advice to anyone considering an apprenticeship, “You gain a lot more by doing an apprenticeship than just by studying. You gain hands-on experience that you need to have a successful career. You can develop a lot quicker because you are learning the practical skills that you need in this industry. It does help that you also get paid for doing an apprenticeship rather than starting your career with a huge student loan.”