Engineering for the future
Stuart Parker is clear about the importance of apprentices to his organisation and the engineering sector.
The head of operations at advanced engineering firm Cygnet Texkimp said: “A quality apprenticeship programme is essential for every engineering business in the UK if we are to have any chance of plugging the skills gap.”
The operation manufactures machinery to handle and process technical fibres, including carbon fibre destined for the global automotive and aerospace markets.
The business, part of Cygnet Group, currently employs seven apprentices at its Northwich headquarters in Cheshire and is also using the apprenticeship levy to fund higher level qualifications for more senior staff.
Stuart said: “As a small business under financial pressure, the levy allows us to deliver training and develop our people in ways we wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford.
“From a cost perspective it gives us more bang for our buck; it means we only have to pay for one tenth of the total cost of a training programme.
“This means that for £5,000 we can get £50,000 of training, as long as that training fits into the apprenticeship mechanism.
“Finding the right training partner is really important to get the most from the levy, especially as our apprentices work across a range of specialist areas.”
He added: “Being able to support and develop our people in this way is a really positive thing for our business.
“There is still a massive gap in supply of good engineers and getting the right people into the business is tough, so giving them the right training and development to make sure they stay is essential.”
Connor Doyle joined Cygnet Group in 2017 to complete his Level Three Apprenticeship and BTEC in electrical engineering. This followed a year of applied studies with industry-focused training provider TTE Training in Ellesmere Port.
He said: “I was really keen to find a small engineering company where my apprenticeship would be tailored specifically for me and I’d have the opportunity to learn a variety of disciplines.
“That’s exactly what I’ve found at Cygnet Texkimp. My training here is personal and unique, and although I’m an electrical engineering apprentice, there’s a great emphasis on cross-skilling.
“This means I get to spend time gathering knowledge from all around the business.
“This year, my training schedule includes stints of up to four weeks in electrical design, logistics, R&D, accounting and sales.
“I’m finding this really valuable and interesting, because it not only gives me a taste of where I might want my career to develop, but also an appreciation of how all the pieces of a business fit together.
“Cygnet Texkimp also offers its engineers the possibility of travelling and working overseas, and that’s something I definitely want to explore.”
Stuart Parker says of this approach: “Not only does this give them a clearer understanding of their role in the business; it also helps them to decide how they want to develop their own careers.”