The project focused on working with employers to promote Higher Apprenticeships in advanced manufacturing to help upskill their workforces.
Currently, the industry tends to focus on a single Higher National Certificate qualifications and Diploma qualifications, rather than multi-qualification Higher Apprenticeships in manufacturing engineering, which can deliver additional knowledge and higher levels skills for employers.
New College Durham embarked on the project to look at how Level 3 apprentices in manufacturing engineering could make the transition to Higher Apprenticeships.
Engineering curriculum manager, Michael Douglas, said:
No other local colleges are offering a Higher Apprenticeship in engineering and we want to try to give students another option. There is not really an awareness of Higher Apprenticeships in the North East and there is not much information available about them.
The team visited a number of small businesses in the sector and a multinational company to find out what their expectations would be from Higher Apprenticeships and how they could help bridge their skills gaps. Focus groups were held with Level 3 apprentices working in industry to find out whether this was a route they would consider taking to top up their qualifications.
There were a lot of positives. We took four or five members of staff to visit a big manufacturer to see its processes and ways we could improve our learning provision. It also formed part of our continuing professional development. The project would not have been an option without the HLHE funding and I don’t think it would have happened.
As a result of the project, New College Durham initially gained six Higher Apprentices in advanced manufacturing engineering, but because of internal issues at the employer, the course did not start.
Unfortunately, due to around 200 redundancies being announced by the major business the college worked with on the project, the six planned Higher Apprenticeships did not materialise. However, other smaller employers have indicated their interest in pursuing the Higher Apprenticeship route in the future.
The company contacted us and asked us to speak to them about Higher Apprenticeships. We established a good link with them, we visited the factory to find out what skills they needed and chatted with their apprentices. We put a lot of effort into writing a bespoke programme for them but then their expected orders did not materialise.
However, from an employer’s point of view, the programme means that New College Durham is now equipped with the information and knowledge to create similar tailormade offers for other companies seeking Higher Apprenticeships in the sector.
We now have the knowledge of Higher Apprenticeships and the promotional materials have been created. The process is in place now where we can go to a company and say ‘what do you want?’ and ‘this is what we can deliver’. We will be carrying on what we were doing to try to convert more people into Higher Apprenticeships.