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Sulzer invests in fresh talent with Apprentice Scheme

The skills shortage in the engineering industry is something that PIF has highlighted on many occasions, but Sulzer are doing their utmost to plug the gaps with a booming apprenticeship scheme at their Birmingham Service Centre.

Mechanical engineering skills

As one of the world’s leading providers of maintenance solutions for clients in the oil and gas, water and power generation industries, Sulzer is keen to maintain its excellent knowledge base and train new talent for the future. In Birmingham, their apprentice programme has been running for more than five years and has produced numerous qualified engineers that have taken up full-time positions.

Lack of apprenticeships in the 80s created the current skills gap

“The industry in general is in very short supply of electrical repair capability as apprenticeships in the late 80s basically became a thing of the past and this has created the current skill gap,” says Dan Moore, General Manager at Birmingham Service Centre.

The apprentice programme is essential for the continuity of the business and finding the right candidates is essential. We are looking for people who have an aptitude for electrical and mechanical repairs and want to get their hands dirty

Working with its training partner, In-Comm, the Birmingham Service Centre is a training academy that offers a wide range of development programmes delivered in a real working environment. The apprentices study a framework, which has been developed by Sulzer’s technical team, in consultation with In-Comm and the skills council that oversees the relevant NVQ programme.

How the apprenticeship schemes work in practice

In the first year apprentices are based at In-Comm on a full-time basis. They learn basic mechanical engineering skills, such as machining, grinding and reading engineering drawings. The block release at college allows apprentices to learn basic electrical skills and principles, and complete the crucial elementary grounding.

The second year heralds a return to the Birmingham Service Centre, where apprentices spend three months in each specialist department: Mechanical, Rewinds, High Voltage Coils and Traction. In each case a basic skill set is covered and the apprentices are assessed on their ability and level of interest in the sector. The end of year assessments see those apprentices that show sufficient aptitude being encouraged to complete a three year BTEC in Electrical and Electronic Engineering as part of their development.

Based on the assessments in year two, the apprentices return in the third year to spend six months in the department that best suits their skill set. Once again, there are assessments during this period to gauge the development and understanding of the apprentices. There is no automatic progression through this programme and those that do not manage to achieve the required standards, either at work or at college, are able to complete the course.

For those that make it to the fourth year, it should be clear which department is most suitable for that candidate after a number of reviews and the natural electrical or mechanical bias of the apprentice. The next twelve months are then spent gaining more experience and learning more complex skills in the final department.

Shortage of engineers in the UK

Dan Moore concludes: “The apprenticeship programme has been designed to meet the needs of our diverse range of businesses, from small to medium electrical machines to large scale mechanical engineering.

“With such a shortage of engineers in the UK, both male and female, we are looking for four new apprentices to start in September, with three of them preferring the electrical side of the business and one to learn a range of mechanical skills. Each applicant will be assessed independently and we would welcome anyone interested in this sector to apply.”

Company Profile

Sulzer

Sulzer, headquartered in Winterthur, Switzerland, since 1834, is specialized in pumping solutions, rotating equipment maintenance and services as well as separation, reaction, and mixing technology.

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