Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Mayor James Palmer visited the newly launched iMET advanced training facility at Alconbury Weald on Monday (November 19) to see the first apprentices working towards their new qualifications.
The £10.5 million facility, funded by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, via the Government's Local Growth Fund, has this Autumn launched its first apprentice training programmes focusing on specialist composites.
There is a significant cluster of composites businesses in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, many of which are struggling to recruit staff with the required skills. The creation of the composites technician programme at iMET is a unique opportunity to put the area at the forefront of composites manufacture and therefore grow the local economy.
Mayor Palmer saw first-hand how the apprentices, based at local firms Codem Composites and TRB Lightweight Structures and who have started the L3 Composites technician apprenticeship, were being given the skills that will help them further their careers. The apprenticeship programme encompasses a BTech qualification, an NVQ qualification, and will prepare the students to apply for their first level professional qualification, the EngTech. Apprentices are typically based at iMET for one full day per week throughout the year.
Mayor Palmer was shown around the facility by its managing director Jo Sainsbury. iMET was officially launched in June to meet the shortage of specialist skills in the region, offering higher or advanced training leading to formal qualifications. iMET was set up to be employer-led, and rooted in the skills needs of the local economy, to improve productivity and growth of local enterprise, as well as to improve job opportunities for young people and adults.
Since launching iMET has completed the fit out of its workshops, including the installation of advanced tools and equipment. Two digital rooms, a suite of 3D printers and an 'Ideas Incubator,' which houses two Virtual Reality stations, are also ready for use.
Since launch, iMET has also engaged with more than 50 local businesses, many of which were keen to work with the centre to develop industry-relevant training. Seven of those businesses have committed to training their apprentices at iMET.
Mayor James Palmer said:
"iMET is a truly fantastic, 21st Century facility that is giving people the skills and training they need to secure jobs in the 21st Century economy.
"By being responsive to the skills demand of local enterprises, iMET is giving people the qualifications that will lead to well-paid jobs and advancement in their careers.
"To see the apprentices already at work is fantastic and what's exciting is that this is just the start. The UK has a significant productivity challenge, and the Combined Authority is committed to a skills agenda that offers real solutions for the local economy, with iMET a prime example.
"I'm passionate that young people who chose not to pursue traditional academic higher education are given the best possible further and technical education, as well as a range of high quality apprenticeships.
The Combined Authority continues to collaborate with businesses and partners, including through its Apprenticeship Grant for Employers (AGE), to create even more such opportunities for our young people."
Jo Sainsbury, Managing Director of iMET said:
"iMET's innovative training approach is truly industry-led ensuring that our advanced engineering programmes are tailored to provide businesses with exactly the kinds of skills they need to grow.
"Our first dedicated Composites Apprenticeship program has been developed as a result of working hand in hand with Codem Composites and TRB Lightweight Structures, specialists in the Composite arena and is a great example of us putting the iMET philosophy into practice."
Monika Wiacek, Training Coordinator at Codem Composites said:
"Apprenticeships are a great way for us to bring in new talent into our business. Being able to partner with iMET to develop Composite modules that truly represent our business is a huge step forward for us, reducing the need for additional inhouse training. It also helps us to attract and retain our staff longer term as our business grows."
The next steps for iMET in the short term are the launch of three new apprenticeship courses from January 2019; Civil Engineering Technician, Digital Engineering Technician and Mechatronics Technician, alongside the short course programmes which include Leading Teams, Mentoring Apprentices, CNC programming skills and Coding for Engineers.
Longer term, iMET has aspirations to deliver an expanded programme of apprenticeships to serve the built environment and manufacturing sectors across the East of England, with ambitions to up to 300 apprentices by 2023.
Links with the surrounding universities will enable iMET to grow the provision to degree level in the future, providing a range of viable routes into a professional career in the built environment, manufacture and technology sectors.