Editorial by Colin Baines
What the Technical Apprenticeship Programme is all about.
The University of Manchester has a long and distinguished tradition of academic excellence, and an ambitious agenda for the future. There are close links to industry, the public sector and the local community. The University has three core goals: world-class research; outstanding learning and student experience; and social responsibility. The Technical Apprenticeship Programme seeks to ensure our young learners are educated and trained in order to assist this vision and ensure we meet our strategic targets.
The Apprenticeship’s training provider is based at Trafford College in Stretford, Manchester. Following a competitive selection process, Trafford Centre for Science and Technology was chosen from six alternative providers, prior to our first intake in September 2013. The young learners study a bespoke programme of key functional skills and work towards additional units of study which are specific to their skills and the Faculties’ strategic future requirements.
We have an annual intake of apprentices each September, selecting from around a hundred local, Greater Manchester applicants. Following internal shortlisting by a University wide technical management team, the top twenty-five candidates are invited to a selection day, where we assess their ability to work independently, within teams and discuss individual career thoughts and aspirations.
We operate two main streams: Improving Operational Performance; Laboratory and Science Technicians. All new apprentices are initially offered a four year fixed term contract and work towards a BTEC Level 2/3 Diploma whilst studying a Level 2/3 NVQ depending on their chosen route. After successful completion, a consolidation year is built into the timetable allowing preparation for HNC/D including, employability skills such as report writing, interview practice and feedback, presentation and project management skills, further Maths and English.
Why the Apprenticeship programme was established.
The University of Manchester Technical Apprenticeship Programme in Engineering Operations and Laboratory and Associated Technical Activities was created to help solve the future demand for skilled technical staff across the University by granting young local people entry to employment via well thought out and structured training positions.
The technical workforce is largely over 50 years of age and we estimate nine percent will retire annually from this 800 strong pool. The programme is expected to encourage apprentices to develop their careers over time and become analytical scientist/support staff, senior experimental officers, laboratory technicians, technical service managers or project managers, replacing some of the outgoing staff.
Since the Apprenticeship programme began in 2013, thirteen apprentices have secured permanent positions within the University indicating the success of the programmed activities and the quality of education and training received.
The wider community need.
The time and money spent training apprentices yields several benefits including being able to train and educate young people within the culture of the organisation, fulfilling aspects of the University’s social responsibility and in the later training years, the apprentices contribute to the business whilst still acquiring useful skills and competencies.
The Apprenticeship Management Team works in close collaboration with the training provider, Trafford College and the staff training and development team at University of Manchester to enhance the apprenticeship programmes with ‘add-on’ courses that are directly applicable to the apprentices, their professional development and the future technical strategy. The Apprentice Management Team regularly visit apprentices in college to see them in action, monitor their academic progress and maintain personal links with Trafford College. Pastoral care is on hand for advice on anything, recognising apprentices are older teenagers/young adults who need to cope with life challenges.
In addition, the Apprenticeship Management Team seeks further opportunities whenever they are available, for example the Halle Orchestra ‘design a musical instrument’ project. This venture is on-going with a new instrument being designed, delivered and used by the orchestra each year for the next 5 years. The Halle uses these instruments in their outreach programme, reaching out to disadvantaged youngsters, prisoners and the disabled. The programme aims to source well-funded, unusual, discipline crossing projects for the apprentices allowing experiences beyond normal training patterns.
The Apprenticeship Management Team intends to work more closely with schools in the Greater Manchester area to raise the profile of this apprenticeship programme with school leavers and increase the number of applicants to the annual intake of new apprentices.
The Technical Apprenticeship programme is a relatively new apprenticeship in the UK but has already evolved considerably. Generated from the ground up by technical managers across the University the original intention to provide a world class, cutting edge programme is well on-track. The Apprenticeship Management Team manages the apprenticeship programme in accordance with national apprenticeship standards, with approved training providers. The programme is adjusted in response to the apprentices’ feedback and achievements, and also to sector demands. Earlier this year the Technical Apprenticeship Programme achieved recognition when it was awarded the Apprenticeships 4 England Bronze award.