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The skill in developing apprentice strength

Foundry apprentices are the future of our industry, which is why more and more companies are investing in apprenticeships says Michala French of Foundry Training Services Ltd. This news comes hot on the heels of the recent research from the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) which reveals that a third (32 per cent) of engineering companies are still looking to recruit and train apprentices and graduates to fill skills gaps. French says the take up from the cast metals industry is evidence of the sector’s recognition of the enormous benefits of ‘on the job’ learning, which enables apprentices to hone their skills with seasoned professionals, combining theory and practice, whilst still contributing daily to their companies.

The Apprenticeship offered by Foundry Training Services (FTS) has gone from strength to strength over the course of the past two years, which is testament to French’s perseverance and the dedication of the FTS tutors delivering the training. “We grew from 17 apprentices initially to 40 and we are in the process of enrolling a further five,” French told Foundry Trade Journal. “We have just carried out the induction for our fourth cohort which is great news. This is because of the fantastic team of tutors we have and their positivity.”

French says they have inspired more companies and individuals to get involved and embrace the advantages of modern apprenticeships and the careers they can open up for those involved. “Our tutors are masters in their fields of expertise and they have transitioned from foundry gents who are used to the ethics and terminology of a foundry environment to become well versed and comfortable with regards teaching standards. They are a brilliant team.”

The changes in operating methods of the past year have done little to dampen the situation, it is quite simply a case of switching much of the work online, which both the tutors and the apprentices have adapted to well. “The theoretical work can be done online and in many cases it has offered our trainers and trainees an improved experience,” French says. “It means that companies can make savings on accommodation and travel costs and much more can be achieved within a given timeframe.” Tutor John Myers is optimistic that the apprentice training offered by FTS will help to stem the industry’s skills gap. “As we know, our employers are concerned about the numbers of young people training to become foundry engineers and moving into our industry. I hope we are going some way to address this imbalance.” Myers says he is enthused about his teaching role, especially the interaction with the students.

Fellow tutor Albert Anderson agrees and is thankful of being able to maintain his passion for the industry. “My work with the apprentices is challenging and so different from my industrial experience, however I find the teaching and mentoring experience extremely rewarding. It is great to review apprentice work, feedback areas where they could improve and see the fruits in their next piece of work. “Teaching and mentoring has taught me that all apprentices have strengths, the skill is to unearth them and then build on them.” Having been involved as an FTS tutor since April 2018, Chris Allott, who has worked in the foundry industry for 50 years, is no stranger to imparting knowledge to future generations. “I am a passionate foundryman and wanted to contribute a bit after retirement to put something back into the industry,” he says.

“I found the ideal opportunity in teaching apprentices on the FTS courses and also going to companies on behalf of FTS to help train their employees. I get a huge buzz from passing on my experience to others.” Apprentice Dennis Hewitt says it is the expertise of the tutors that attracted him to the FTS apprentice training. “I joined the Metal, Casting & Patternmaking Technician Apprenticeship because it was the best course option for someone who wants to learn from industry experts first-hand.” Collaborative working is particularly important to Hewitt. “I am currently the only apprentice at my place of work, I enjoy mixing with other apprentices as it helps me gauge how I'm progressing. We can bounce ideas off each other and work as part of a team…together we have overcome challenges which we couldn’t have done on our own. “I have gained many new skills that I have already put into action at my place of work. For example, I have applied my newly learnt casting simulation skills into helping me design a feeding system for a new job.” Hewitt says the online teaching is a triumph. “The online teaching has been a great addition to my ‘at home revision sessions’. It answers many questions that I may come across during my revision of the course units.”

Fellow apprentice Brandon Jones is equally complimentary. “I've gained a good mix of knowledge and skill based behaviours that I can apply not only to work, but to everyday life. One of these would be interacting and working with new groups of people every day. “I've found the online training hard at times to stay focused, especially when at home, but the tutors do a great job at keeping us involved and interacting throughout the lessons so all in all I have found the lessons extremely helpful.” Allott sums up the new lease of life becoming an FTS tutor has given him. “Passing on information to the future leaders and managers of the industry is a great privilege, watching them develop their own skills is just marvellous.”

For more information on how to become a tutor or for details on the apprenticeships and how they can benefit you and your company, contact: Michala French, training and quality manager, Foundry Training Services Ltd, National Foundry Training Centre, Tipton Road, Tipton, West Midlands DY4 7UW, UK. Tel: 0121 752 1814, Mobile:  07963 318761, email: info@foundrytrainingservices.co.uk