The University of Sheffield AMRC Training Centre is celebrating 10 years of delivering apprenticeships that have helped ‘transform lives’, forge strong partnerships and create an engineering workforce fit for the future.
Since the first cohort of apprentices started in 2013, the AMRC Training Centre has a lot to celebrate – it has delivered more than 1,700 apprenticeships from advanced level through to degree, worked with 400 different businesses of all sizes and provided continuous professional development to upskill and reskill existing workforces.
Nikki Jones, director of the AMRC Training Centre, said: “At the AMRC Training Centre, we’re transforming lives through apprenticeships. We’ve been doing apprenticeships for ten years now and they matter just as much now as when we started. They are so important for the education mix and providing the workforce for the future. Any industry needs to have skilled people going into their businesses, apprenticeships give them access to that pipeline of talent.
“We must continue to invest in apprenticeships nationally and continue to support all employers – large or small – to take on apprentices. They bring in new skills and fresh ideas. Innovation and a skilled workforce are different sides of the same coin; they are both essential to economic growth and you cannot have one without the other.”
Throughout this journey, partnerships with companies such as Close Brothers have played a key role to help make apprenticeships possible. Adrian Sainsbury, chief executive of Close Brothers Group, said: “Our partnership with the University of Sheffield AMRC Training Centre opens up great opportunities for young people and helps create a much-needed pipeline of future engineering talent.
“Apprenticeships are an excellent way for UK SMEs to fill skills gaps, develop their future workforce and improve long-term growth prospects. We know from experience that SMEs often need assistance to take on apprentices.
“Over the past eight years we have supported the training of 70 apprentices at the AMRC Training Centre through the Close Brothers SME Apprentice Programme that aims to help with the specific issues SMEs are facing which includes the cost of investing in an apprentice. We also want to help businesses establish a diverse and dynamic workforce of young fresh talent with new ideas and an eagerness to learn the skills and knowledge required to build a rewarding long-term career.”
Two former apprentices funded through the Close Brothers SME Apprentice Programme, Leigh Worsdale and Ben Siddall, commended their apprenticeship journey for helping them ‘open the right doors’ to unlock their potential – leading to winning awards, visiting Boeing’s commercial aircraft factory in Seattle, US and landing senior leadership roles in companies.
Leigh Worsdale (25) works as an engineering manager at Foxwood Diesel in Chesterfield, but her roots go back to 2015, when she started her apprenticeship journey at the AMRC Training Centre as a heavy-duty diesel engine builder.
Ms Worsdale, who was the first female apprentice to win the overall AMRC Training Centre Apprentice of the Year award, said choosing an apprenticeship over an academic degree was an easy decision, adding: “The biggest reason for me was I didn’t want any debt, and an apprenticeship was the way to gain more experience to build my career while being able to earn a wage.
“There were some ups and downs, but it has all led me to where I am today. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without my apprenticeship.”
When asked what her proudest moment was during her apprenticeship, Ms Worsdale said it was the satisfaction in knowing that she had contributed to the success of her employer.
“When I was 16, I came into an industry without knowing much about it, but I found ways to improve things every single time. I started with our health and safety standards – small things like ensuring the working environment was clean, and over time it led to massive changes,” said Ms Worsdale.
Reflecting upon her apprenticeship journey, Ms Worsdale said: “I think everything happens for a reason and the AMRC Training Centre was one of the stepping stones that enabled me to network and meet new people, opening up doors to opportunities that I wouldn’t have had with a purely academic degree.”
Ben Siddall (27), is a production manager at C&S Fabrications in Sheffield and described his apprenticeship as a stepping stone in the right direction, adding: “An apprenticeship has given me the practical skills that I needed to progress in my workplace. It has been a long journey, but certainly a rewarding one.”
Mr Siddall’s main highlight from his apprenticeship is utilising the skills he learnt at the AMRC Training Centre to support improvements at his workplace.
“I remember learning 3D CAD software during my apprenticeship and then bringing it back to my company,” said Ben. “It was something we never had before and probably would’ve never considered adopting otherwise.”
Having received a kickstart in their own careers, both Leigh and Ben are massive advocates of apprenticeships, encouraging young talent as well as employers to take a step towards it.
Siddall said: “We’re always keen to take on new apprentices and we’ve just taken on three. If we can give young talent the opportunity that I’ve had, I’d say we’re doing some good.”
Ms Worsdale added that she likes how apprenticeships give younger talent the skills to not just help companies grow, but can be a benefit for the whole industry. She said: “We're always looking for apprentices and looking to bring in new talent to build not just their career, but their personalities as well.
“I’ve had so many opportunities come my way and received job offers from all around the world, which shows just how much opportunity there is out there for young people doing apprenticeships. There are opportunities at every corner. Invest everything you can into it and you can see the results yourself.”
For young talent already pursuing an apprenticeship, Ben has a simple advice: “Work hard and don’t take it for granted. It’s years of your life that you’ll never get back. There are a lot of opportunities, so – go all in, try to take on as much as possible and say ‘yes’ to every opportunity.”