Training centre is brim full of apprenticeship potential

BUSINESS'Alison Bettac at the AMRC Knowledge Transfer building in Sheffield
BUSINESS'Alison Bettac at the AMRC Knowledge Transfer building in Sheffield
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They’ve not finished the buildings yet and the new AMRC Training Centre is already stretched to capacity.

Such is the demand from both school leavers and sponsoring employers that the prestigious Sheffield University-backed facility has recruited 20 more apprentices than it originally planned.

It has also filled its total machining capacity for the first six months and is having to defer taking on any more machining apprentices until next April.

When the Advanced Manufacturing Park-based Centre opens on Monday, October 6, it will have 160 apprentices, with plans to icater for 250 apprentices after a year and possibly as many as 500 in the future.

Half of the initial intake will be training to fill a skills gap, which has already resulted in advanced manufacturing companies across the region resorting to poaching machinists from each other.

Every one of the 16-year-old apprentices will have been through a rigorous assessment at the AMRC’s Knowledge Transfer Centre.

The assessments test their English and maths skills, mechanical dexterity and reasoning and their team skills.

They also get the chance to find out about the range of careers open to them in manufacturing and meet some employers.

Successful candidates then go through rigorous interview training to prepare them to clear the final hurdle – an interview that will hopefully match them with an employer who will take them on and sponsor them through the training.

It’s been no mean achievement to get through the assessments – and no mean achievement for the AMRC Training Centre staff.

From a standing start 14 months ago, when she was the centre’s sole employee, director of training Alison Bettac, has built up a 24-strong team that has overseen the building, created the courses, acquired the equipment, secured the sponsoring employers, gone out to schools to explain the opportunities and found the trainees.

“We don’t mess about,” says Alison. “I’ve got a good team. We are all from industry and we are used to just getting stuff done. That’s what’s enabled us to achieve what we have achieved to date.”

Alison says that after years of struggling to find suitable trainees for industry heading the training centre is her dream job.

“It’s everything I wanted. After all the years of banging the table about what we needed as employers and this region’s skills not being up to standard, I can come here and make it happen!

“That’s why we are so passionate, because we are all from industry and the experience we have had there makes us all the more determined to make it happen. “This is my dream job. I never want to leave,” says Alison.