Oxfordshire apprentices train in the heart of UK Science and Tech

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The new Oxfordshire Advanced Skills (OAS) Training Centre at Culham Science Centre near Abingdon, welcomed 100 young people last September to began their apprenticeships.

OAS offers training for the Level 3 Engineering Technician Apprenticeship Standard. This qualification has been designed by employers to give the technical and practical knowledge required to work in the engineering sector. The OAS is also introducing training in BTEC Level 4 Higher National Certificate in Engineering with degree apprenticeships in the planning for September 2020.

The training centre, which is being run by the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) will make a significant contribution to developing the next generation of engineers to support the future skills needs of businesses across Oxfordshire, the Thames Valley and the surrounding area – one of the UK’s high-tech hotspots.

David Martin, Director of Oxfordshire Advanced Skills Centre, said: “The OAS is an employerled skills hub providing high quality training contextualised by being delivered in the workplace. Based as we are at one of the most exciting science and technology hubs in the UK, we have created something very special that has the potential to impact careers and business performance for decades to come.”

The new 3,800 sq metre training centre at The UK Atomic Energy Authority at Culham incorporates some of the country’s most advanced equipment on which the apprentices are learning.

It will provide more than 160 apprentices a year with the technical skills Oxfordshire and the Thames Valley’s economies need, and a springboard for future career success.

Training at the new facility is being delivered by MTC Apprenticeships, replicating the industry-leading tuition provided at the Advanced Manufacturing Training Centre (AMTC) on the MTC campus at Ansty Park, Coventry. The AMTC has a reputation for equipping apprentices not only with core engineering skills but also the latest advanced manufacturing techniques.

More than 20 of Oxfordshire’s most exciting science and technology companies are currently placing their apprentices with Oxford Advanced Skills.

When the skill-set is scarce, SST trains its own

Eynsham-based SST Technology designs and manufactures advanced fabrications with a particular expertise in tubular components and high-performance insulation products.

Part of the Polar Technology Group, which owns a number of engineering businesses operating at the leading edge of technology, SST design systems and components, often working with its customers’ design teams. The company works with the highest performance materials such as Inconel, Titanium and stainless steel and employs advanced processes such as CNC Bending, Hydroforming, pressing and six-axis laser cutting.

The company takes on up to four apprentices at a time, most training to be engineers, although it is also putting one through an apprenticeship in finance this year.

Sharon Barrett, Head of People and Performance, said: “We train our own apprentices because it can be difficult to find enough engineers who possess the skills we need for our sector of engineering.

“We use a number of training providers, but Oxfordshire Advanced Skills gives us the benefit of being able to provide full-time training to apprentices in their first year so that when they arrive to work here in their second year, and continue their training on day-release to college, they will have a useful level of knowledge and maturity which will benefit the business as well as give them a sound skills foundation to a career in engineering.”

Working for Reaction Engines is out of this world

Reaction Engines, based at Culham Science Centre, is currently putting three apprentices through their training at Oxford Advanced Skills Centre. One electrical apprentice is in his first year of full-time training while a second year mechanical apprentice is completing his BTEC certificate and a fourth year mechanical apprentice is completing his HNC.

Reaction Engines offers an Advanced Level 3 Apprenticeship Scheme to ensure its apprentices have cutting-edge engineering and science disciplines.

Nothing less will do for those who want to build a career with one of the UK’s most exciting companies which is developing the technologies needed for a new class of innovative hypersonic propulsion system it has named the Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (SABRE).

Reaction Engines propose to take on at least one apprentice a year, with applications opening for the 2020 intake.

Apprenticeship Scheme Manager, Barry Coulling, said: “Our apprenticeship programme nurtures the skills our workforce will need in the future. Having such a new and well-equipped apprenticeship training centre on site is of huge benefit to us.

“The collaboration between the OAS and Reaction Engines will benefit us and our apprentices as they train to build their careers in engineering and aerospace with a future-focused business.”

Lisa Rudzki, Reaction Engine’s Head of HR, said: “An apprenticeship at Reaction Engines offers the best of both worlds. Each individual gains a recognised qualification while getting valuable work experience by learning on the job.

“We are delighted to offer schemes that take outstanding young people and train them in academic and real work environments developing them into our next generation of designers, technicians and engineers.”

Apprentices fly high at Oxford Space Systems

Oxford Space Systems is an award-winning space technology business based at Harwell which is pioneering the development of a new generation of deployable antennas and structures that are lighter, less complex and lower cost than those in current commercial demand.

Chief Operating Officer, Mat Rowe, is passionate about the value of apprenticeships. He was an UK Atomic Energy Authority apprentice, as was David Martin the new Director of the Oxfordshire Advanced Skills Centre.

Mat also sits on a trailblazer space technology apprenticeship group, which is working on setting standards for a pioneering new space apprenticeship to be rolled out soon.

“We launched Oxford Space Systems in 2014 and took on our first apprentices in 2016. It’s unusual for an SME to take on apprentices at such an early stage but I felt it was essential as there is such a vacuum of engineering talent since apprenticeships petered out in the 1990s.

Mat welcomed the opening of Oxfordshire Advanced Skills. “We need smart, bright technicians to work in our facility and build spacecraft hardware alongside our really experienced team who work here full-time,” he said.