Lifting the bar

Cutlers' Feast: Richard Caborn, front right, took the opportunity to hail engineering apprenticeships
Cutlers' Feast: Richard Caborn, front right, took the opportunity to hail engineering apprenticeships
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Plans for a pioneering training centre that could take young people from South Yorkshire all the way from an advanced manufacturing apprenticeship to a research degree have won backing from Business Secretary Vince Cable, it has been revealed.

The proposals for a new Advanced Manufacturing Institute, based at the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP), have been put forward by Sheffield University, with support from Sheffield Hallam, local further education colleges and industry.

Former Sheffield MP and Industry Minister Richard Caborn, who is now acting as a strategic advisor to Sheffield University’s AMP-based Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, told guests at the Cutlers’ Feast that the Advanced Manufacturing Institute would “lift the bar for engineering apprenticeships training to a new height.”

The new Institute would give 16-year-olds “the opportunity not only to have a quality apprentice training but to also take a part time degree and then possibly move on to a Masters or PhD.”

“We hope in the near future to have an intake of around 200 per year, which will start addressing the concerns about the lack of high quality skilled labour,” said Mr Caborn, adding that negotiations were well advanced and he had received Mr Cable’s support in principal when he briefed the Business Secretary on the scheme, shortly before the Feast.

Detailed plans for the multi-million pound Advanced Manufacturing Institute have not been released, but it is understood that it would be a pilot project, with world class equipment and buildings, offering training that was relevant to industry and designed to enable trainees to progress as far as their potential and commitment allowed them.

Business would be expected to donate some of the equipment, as well as the time and support of senior staff

Trainees completing part time degree courses through the Institute would have their qualifications awarded by either Sheffield Hallam or Sheffield University, depending on the degree, and the qualifications are expected to be endorsed by leading AMRC top tier sponsors, Rolls-Royce, BAE Systems and Boeing.

The Advanced Manufacturing Institute would be open to people coming direct from school, from the new University Training College, which the region is hoping to set up to provide high level practical training, and from industry.

Students from industry could either enter the Institute as apprentice trainees, degree level or post graduate students and could spend time working back in industry before moving on to the next level of learning.

Establishing the new Institute would require government support initially, but the hope is that it would be able to cover its costs within a couple of years.

If government backing is forthcoming, apprentice training could begin in temporary accommodation later this year, with undergraduate and post graduate course beginning towards the end of 2012, by which time a purpose built Institute could be open.