Apprenticeships are becoming increasingly flexible to ensure all employers in all sectors can benefit from them. This was the primary objective of creating Flexi-job Apprenticeship Agencies. One example of the increased flexibility now available is front-loaded apprenticeships. We decided to speak to the Science Industry Apprenticeship Consortium (SIAC) North East. SIAC are having having great success with front-loaded apprenticeships.
Can you tell us about your organisation?
Science Industry Apprenticeship Consortium (SIAC) North East, is actually a consortium of North East-based employers, facilitated by Cogent Skills. SIAC includes Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies, Alpek Polyester, ConocoPhillips, Centre for Process Innovation (CPI), Huntsman Polyurethanes, Johnson Matthey, Mitsubishi Chemical UK, SABIC Petrochemicals and Venator
What apprenticeship standards do your apprentices typically undertake, and at what level?
Science Manufacturing Technician Level 3
Science Industry maintenance Technician Level 3
What are the main reasons you decided to take on an apprentice?
Business continuity, succession planning, skills future-proofing and as an effective way to recruit and develop new talent with a concept of “growing your own” which in turn fosters loyalty.
What method of flexible apprenticeships does your organisation use to ensure that an apprentice gains their off the job training requirement? E.g. Front-loaded apprenticeships, Block Training, Accelerated Apprenticeship
Front-loading of apprentice foundation training. Technical representatives of the SIAC N/E employers agreed on the content of the foundation phase of training and then collaborated with an excellent, further education college to develop a curriculum and scheme of work. As well as starting the knowledge qualification and gaining an introduction to technical engineering skills, the foundation phase of training is heavily focused on safety, including workplace behaviours and expectations, which is critical for these employers.
Over the course of the apprenticeship, how is this delivered? E.g. specific days of the week, each term, residential blocks?
The apprentices spend almost all of their first year at college completing the foundation training, apart from a couple of placement weeks with their employer. In the first year, the apprentices spend two days per week studying for the knowledge qualification, and three days per week ‘hands-on’ in the workshops, practising and honing their engineering skills in a safe environment. The employers meet with their apprentices and college representatives every 8 weeks to review progress and discuss their training. The apprentices transfer to the employer’s site at the end of the first year, and continue to study the qualification in year 2 of the Apprenticeship, through day release.
What were the benefits you found of using this method of apprenticeship delivery?
Front-loading the apprenticeships is a huge benefit due to nature of the business in terms of hazards and the safety criticality of the industry. It allows the apprentices to complete their foundation training in a safe and controlled environment and ensure they are equipped with the right skills and attitude towards safety as well as being aware of the behaviours expected in the workplace. For the maintenance apprentices, this method of delivery also allows apprentices to gain foundation skills in, and exposure to, all three maintenance areas (mechanical, electrical and instrumentation) before specialising when they get to their employer’s sites. Using this method of front-loaded delivery ensures the apprentices are job-ready when they arrive on site and are able to make an immediate and impactful contribution.
Is there anything else you feel is important to add?
Due to head count restrictions, a number of the organisations within the SIAC consortium employ their apprentices through Cogent Skills, who are a registered flexi-job apprenticeship agency (FJAA). Without utilising Cogent Skills’ FJAA service many of these employers would have been unable to effectively utilise apprenticeships within their organisations.
“The SIAC Group of employers has a very high rate of success in terms of the collaborative approach they have to the apprenticeship programme, working with the training provider and the support given to the apprentices throughout. There is very high success rate of their apprentices successfully passing their End Point of Assessments and it is strongly believed that the approach to the delivery of the apprenticeship is a big contributory factor to this.”
Jackie Petford, SIAC North East Chair & HR Manager, Alpek Polyester UK Ltd
Read more guidance on how apprenticeships can be delivered for your business from Gov.uk