Thursday, March 12, 2015

News: Boeing boss meets high-flying apprentices

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Top Boeing executive, David Pitchforth, met with 150 apprentices at the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre's (AMRC's) training facilities in Rotherham this week.

As part of National Apprenticeship Week, the Yorkshire-born managing director of Boeing Defence UK Ltd told the group that apprentices need to keep learning throughout their careers and make their own luck by finding a mentor within their companies who will take an interest in their future development.

The AMRC Training Centre is a £20.5m centre on the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) in Rotherham where the focus is on students aged from 16 upwards, taken on paid apprenticeships. Part of the AMRC with Boeing, apprentices have opportunities to progress on to postgraduate courses, doctorates and MBA levels. Sponsoring companies range from global leaders such as Rolls-Royce and Tata Steel to local high-tech supply-chain companies.

Pitchforth started his career as an apprentice with a company making high end automotive components and went on to work for the Ford Motor Company, at one stage running its Formula One racing operations.

David Pitchforth, managing director of Boeing Defence UK Ltd (pictured, centre), said: "The most important thing you can do at the place where you work is to talk to your managing director and senior people and find a mentor – someone who is interested in moving you through your career.

"They are not going to come and find you. There are lots of time in business where you have to make your own luck. Find someone who is going to be an advocate for you and help you drive your career forward."

The centre is set to exceed recruitment targets when the final group for 2014/15 arrives in mid-March, bringing the total for the preceding 12 months to 250 and raising the number of apprentices in full or part time training to 410.

Pitchforth, added: "This is a fantastic facility but you have got to keep learning. Every one of us (on the Boeing Defence management team) does three to four weeks of intensive training throughout the year."

The apprentices at the AMRC appear to be a step ahead, with many staying on after their courses have finished to learn additional skills.

The Boeing exec gave the keynote speech at the Centre's inaugural Apprentice of the Year awards dinner on Wednesday. On the same day, Professor Sir Keith Burnett, vice-chancellor at the University of Sheffield spoke about a new national report into the future of advanced vocational education in the UK that he has co-authored.

"The Future of Higher Vocational Education" sets out a vision for "elite" vocational education in the UK in which high-quality apprenticeships achieve the same high-quality status as university degrees.

Professor Sir Keith Burnett said: "All of the main political parties talk about the need to strengthen vocational education and to increase the number of apprentices, but there is still a real lack of clarity about the quality of these apprenticeships, how they link into the needs of the economy and industry and how we ensure that the young people who engage in them really do go on to the very best jobs."

The AMRC was the first of the UK's national specialist research and development facilities to recognise the needs of industry for a new kind of highly skilled and vocationally adept engineering apprenticeship programme leading to degree level study.

AMRC Training Centre website

Images: AMRC

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