A state-of-the-art apprenticeship academy is set to open its doors for the first time this month delivering industry standard training and qualifications to the engineers of the future, across the manufacturing and service sectors.
The NITAL (Northamptonshire Industrial Training Association Ltd) Academy replicates a working environment with modern equipment such as mills, lathes, welding equipment and an inspection area as well as classrooms.
Based in Kettering, the academy will deliver qualifications developed by EAL, the specialist awarding organisation for industry, to apprentices from local companies as well as catering for full-time learners with plans to expand provision next year.
Dan Barker, who joined NITAL after spending 15 years working in FE where he started off at workshop level and ended as Head of Engineering and Motor Vehicles, is the Training Academy Manager.
“It is very exciting and a bit nerve-wracking but this is a fantastic facility which will help meet the needs of industry for many years to come,” he said. “The academy is able to deliver a real-life environment in which to do training, using a blended approach with work on the job and the learning within the academy.
“We are working with more than 100 companies to deliver traditional apprenticeships fitting the needs of modern industry. As well as the practical and theoretical work, we will be very much focused on employability skills. For example, learners will be expected to clock in and out every day just as they would in the workplace, with an expectation of meeting all deadlines to the required specifications”
The full-time learners will undergo an induction in health and safety before undertaking their EAL Performance Engineering Operations Level 2 - designed to cover the fundamental skills and knowledge common to all engineering practices that are part of the apprenticeship framework - within the academy from mid-October.
Apprentices from local companies will spend one day a week at the academy working towards their EAL Level 2 and level 3 VRQ (Vocational Related Qualification).
Mr Barker said: “Our ethos is to secure apprenticeships for all learners who attend the full time course, and further develop them throughout their apprenticeship. We have a local company who has already stated that they will offer a minimum of six advanced apprenticeships across a range of engineering disciplines to learners who have successfully completed the traineeship program. We also have six of the full time learners already being sponsored by two companies with a view of them becoming advanced apprentices to then progress onto level 3 in September 2016.
“We will be working within the Semta national occupational standards and apprenticeship frameworks just as they would be if they were in employment. We will also be looking to do real jobs for companies as part of the training so they get real hands-on experience of manufacturing components for a customer and all the skills required to do so.”
NITAL has been delivering training since 1969 but identified the academy as the best way to tackle the skills shortage in the area – investing a considerable amount of time and finances into the scheme.
Additional staff have joined the existing team at NITAL to deliver training, Pete Eades to deliver the welding and Graham Dyer to deliver advanced machining and inspection.
Mr Barker said: “Between us we have over 40 years industry and training experience. We can provide a flexible back-to-basics learning approach across a number of engineering and welding disciplines – running a competitive internal league table of learners on a pass, merit and distinction basis – providing a compelling alternative to 6th form and college due to its real-life ethos to work.
“It is the sort of training employers have been calling for and we will deliver it in conjunction with them under a rigorous assessment regime.”
Julia Chippendale, Managing Director of EAL, said: “We are delighted to be working in partnership with NITAL. This is a fantastic facility which brings engineering to life and provides a vibrant, real-time environment for learners. The training, the partnership with employers and the qualifications the apprentices will gain is the ideal passport into work, helping to ensure the UK has the skills to succeed in engineering and advanced manufacturing.”