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Williams, Cranfield and MTC on the grid

By Jo Whittle
16 May 2018

The Business Magazine launched the Southern Manufacturing Apprentice of the Year award at April’s annual Southern Manufacturing 100 dinner. Guest speakers from Cranfield University and the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) talked about bridging the skills gap, while Williams Advanced Engineering, part of the Formula 1 group, offered an insight into electric vehicle production.

The Manufacturing Apprentice of the Year award is open to all engineering and manufacturing companies in the Thames Valley and Solent & South Central region. Apprentices or their employers can submit nominations at The closing date is August 10.

The award is sponsored by JLT, the insurance, reinsurance and employee benefits advice brokerage and service provider, Lloyds Bank, accountants MHA MacIntyre Hudson and Taylor Made Computer Solutions.

A panel of expert judges and sponsors will nominate four finalists in September. They, along with companies from our 2018 Southern Manufacturing 100 listing, will be invited to an exclusive lunch and guided tour of the world-leading MTC at Ansty Park, Coventry, on October 31 when the winner will be announced.

Right skills at the right time

Describing the apprenticeship levy as many manufacturer’s ‘elephant in the room’, Christian Warden, head of skills development at the MTC, talked about the challenges businesses face trying to match competencies with future needs.

“The levy has been in place for over a year, but many companies still don’t know what they are doing with it,” he said. “In five years’ time, 16-18 year olds will probably account for only around 20% of apprentices. People in their 50s and 60s will be as important. The MTC is looking at end-to-end solutions through to retirement, with apprenticeships from level 2 to level 7.”

Dr Claudiu Giusca, senior lecturer in sensor technology for precision in-process measurement at Cranfield University, agreed with Warden that training providers needed to bridge the gap between new technological developments and how they can be used effectively in manufacturing. Cranfield provides post-graduate qualifications.

He said that only a small proportion of SMEs currently have links with universities and he invited businesses to liaise with Cranfield to discuss what science and engineering skills would meet their strategic goals.

Giusca also highlighted a lack of clarity on how the UK’s industrial strategy can be translated effectively at a local level. “It’s a question of long-term versus short-term objectives,” he noted.

Racing ahead

Paul McNamara, technical director at Williams Advanced Engineering, described the company’s innovative manufacturing developments in electric vehicles and aerodynamics. It supplies all the batteries for Formula E, as well as operating the Jaguar Formula E team. Next year, Aston Martin is due to launch a Williams-powered high-performance electric road car.

“A huge change is going to hit us in the next 10 to 15 years that will have a big impact on manufacturers involved with internal combustion engine vehicles,” said McNamara. “The UK has to be able to respond.”

Williams’ campus in Grove, Oxfordshire, features 15 additive manufacturing centres, two wind tunnels and two F1 simulators. It writes its own hardware and software, and has 15 3D printers operating almost round-the-clock, mainly creating tools for carbon fibre manufacturing. As well as turning out six Formula 1 cars every season, it produces an impressive range of advanced products that includes the lightweight Babypod used in NHS ambulances, and an aerodynamic bicycle raced by British paralympian Karen Darke.

Sainsbury’s recently announced the rollout of energy saving fridges equipped with technology co-developed by Williams to control air flow. Williams even has an Enterprise Investment Scheme with £20 million available to fund innovative start-up businesses.

Award information

If you would like more information about the Manufacturing Apprentice of the Year award, or would like to attend the private tour of the MTC on October 31, email Peter Laurie:

[email protected]

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