Thursday, July 21, 2016

News: Lessons from Rotherham

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Sir Keith Burnett, vice-chancellor and president at The University of Sheffield has used a column in a national publication to explain why the institution's activities in Rotherham might offer many lessons for the Government's new education team.

Based on the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) in Rotherham, the University's Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) is a world-class centre for advanced machining and materials research for aerospace and other high-value sectors.

In a comment piece for Times Higher Education Burnett discusses what universities can do to engage working-class people and "the missing part of the puzzle" - the AMRC Training Centre where 650 apprentices are expected to make use of the state of the art facilities in Rotherham during the next academic year.

Since taking on its first 140 apprentices in autumn 2013, the £20.5m Training Centre has grown rapidly into an award-winning centre of excellence with over 400 employed-status apprentices. But getting it off the ground was not easy due to a lack of funds and a suspicion of starving the rest of the university of resources.

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Sir Keith told the magazine: "I was on the verge of giving up when I talked to the UK's advanced manufacturing guru, Keith Ridgway. Like me, he came from a working-class background in an industrial area and still had family for whom universities were a world apart. He explained to me that an important opportunity had come up. Rolls-Royce was building a new turbine blade factory alongside our AMRC in Rotherham, and local companies were concerned they would mop up the skilled people.

"Keith said the university could build a new apprentice centre to train a new generation of "Top Gun apprentices". This new generation, trained in the most advanced environment of its type, designed with the future of advanced manufacturing in mind, would have jobs with local and global companies.

"They would not be students, taking on debt. They would be employed – but with the scope to go further. It would be true access.

"Why would a university do this? Because we can.

"And in the new era of education and industrial strategy, of a country divided in its opportunity, we simply must. We can link the future careers of young people with the real demands of present day companies to be part of the future of industry. We who have the advantage of drawing on world-class scholarship, and can link apprentices to a "Russell Group of companies" and their supply chains. I thought it was our duty to get in there. So we did."

The AMRC hosted a popular "Get Started with Product Design" alongside the Prince's Trust this week. Made possible by AMRC partner, Boeing, the Trust's programme is running twice in 2016 following its hugely successful pilot last year. The five-day programme is a personal and social development training programme, focussed on manufacturing, targeted to 16-25 year olds who are not in education, training or employment.

Burnett added: "I love to invite people to visit Rotherham and see this transformation for themselves. Again and again, people are surprised at the quality and potential of what lies before them. This is not a second rate future. It is aspirational and flash. Apprentices with talent can go on to degrees and beyond. It is truly allied to world-leading research and it attracts the best."

AMRC Training website

Images: AMRC

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