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Engineering a better future for yourself – with an apprenticeship

“It’s a rewarding job, seeing young people gaining the skills employers want and embarking on a career in engineering,” reflects Martin Wear.

Martin is centre manager at the British Engineering Manufacturers (BEMA) training centre at Yate, near Bristol.

Dozens of apprentices pass through the site on the journey to Level 3 Engineering Technician qualification, delivered by Swatpro Academy.

The first year is spent at the centre learning, in Martin’s words, “the skills and good practises that will make a good employee” before they go on to spend another 2-3 years working with their employers.

Progress is monitored and assessed by frequent site visits from the centre’s staff.

“We aim to see everyone in their workplace every 6-8 weeks,” Martin explains.

“This is more frequent than the once every 12 weeks that the apprenticeship guidelines insist on, but we feel extra contact allows us to help the learners better, pick up potential problems and provide additional training.

“Apprentices spend 1 day a week for two years on the specific subject areas to gain their technical certificate and go on to learn the specific skills their job role entails.”

As with every Swatpro Academy apprenticeship, courses are carefully tailored to match employers’ need – an approach that has won the centre 15 loyal clients with more organisations getting in contact all the time.

The apprentices – mainly school leavers, but with a smattering of those joining later and employees being upskilled – leave the centre with a Level 2 Machinist qualification, before embarking on the next section of their learning journey.

“In Yate, we have a small team of dedicated instructors, tutors and assessors who bring a wealth of knowledge, skills and experiences. Their drive is to help and support the apprentices fulfil their potential,” explains Martin, who underwent an apprenticeship himself before becoming a graduate machinal engineer and working in industry for many years.

“We have lots of new equipment here – lathes, mills, surface grinding machines and so on – as well as CNC lathes and mills to give learners an introduction to those skills.”

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This comprehensive programme has paid off and recently the centre celebrated all 23 of its apprentices achieving Level 3 qualifications, a 100% record all the more impressive given the Pandemic years they have had to work through.

Many achieved distinctions for individual competencies.

“We’re all very proud of them,” smiles Martin.

But how has Covid affected the industry they work in?

“I’ll not mince words, it has been tough on some sectors, particularly for the aerospace industry,” he says.

“But we’re seeing some encouraging signs of pick up. Green shoots, if you like.

“Enquiries from employers are improving and more apprentices continue to join the current cohort. This follows a difficult year for the centre, where some employers held back on recruitment.

“This did benefit those who did recruit as these apprentices received more direct help and support. I’m optimistic the cohort will continue to fill across the year,” he asserts.

Swatpro Academy help companies all the way through the process, helping to recruit, filter and prepare potential new apprentices.

“We’d not be where we are without giving employers exactly what they want. It’s at the core of all we do,” notes Martin.

One last question for Martin. How female-friendly is the working environment?

“Although the vast majority of applicants are male, we do have one or two female apprentices every year,” he says.

“They tend to get on very well indeed. I sometimes think the extra dedication to work in what has traditionally been seen as a masculine career makes women in the industry very good engineers!”

“I’m sure in the future we’ll see more.”

Engineering a better future for yourself – with an apprenticeship