Close Brothers has announced the launch of phase two of its SME Apprenticeship Programme, in partnership with manufacturers’ organisation EEF and the Manufacturing Technologies Association (MTA).
With the skills gap weighing heavily on the UK manufacturing sector, the scheme helps SMEs to tackle the issues of cost and red tape so they can take on an apprentice and invest in a new generation of skilled workers.
Through its partnership with EEF and MTA, Close Brothers will this year select twenty manufacturing SMEs in the Birmingham area that need support in hiring a local apprentice to help answer their business needs. It will assist in recruiting and paying for twenty apprentices – one for each SME. The programme will fund half of the apprentices’ wages in the first year and a quarter in the second, helping to alleviate cost concerns.
The apprentices will be trained at EEF’s state-of-the-art technology training centre in Aston, near Birmingham, which is at the forefront of new manufacturing and engineering technologies. Here they will learn both traditional and the most cutting-edge techniques that will fully equip them for a sustainable and exciting career in modern industry.
The technology training centre was officially opened in April 2014, by local MP Khalid Mahmood. In November last year it unveiled further investment of £2 million into providing nine additional new training sections containing £700,000 of high-tech equipment. A further £5 million investment is going into the centre this year, which is to expand into a second site and increase the number of apprentices it trains from 250 to over 400 a year.
This second phase of the Close Brothers SME Apprenticeship Programme will build on the success of last year’s roll-out, which helped twenty SMEs in Sheffield to recruit an apprentice. These apprentices are being trained at the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre in Sheffield. By phase three – next year - Close Brothers will be supporting up to 60 SMEs through its unique programme.
Applications are now open for SMEs to apply to join the scheme and successful companies will be announced the week of 4 July. This same week, applications will open for apprentice candidates, with a launch event held at the EEF in Birmingham the following week. Successful apprentice candidates will be announced at the end of August, ready for enrolment at the start of September.
Terry Scuoler, Chief Executive of EEF, commented: “Three quarters of UK manufacturers have struggled to recruit skilled workers in the last three years. The skills crunch affecting our sector is critical and is forcing firms to contend with issues over both the quantity and quality of skills available to them.
“This innovative scheme therefore ticks two big boxes. It is not only helping SMEs to find and fund a talented apprentice to help their business grow, but it is also helping to inject fresh blood into our sector’s skills pool.”