The opportunities for apprenticeships in automation

10 March 2020

Sewtec’s Mark Atkins has looked at why an apprenticeship in automation can help set the next generation of talent off on the right foot.

Employee inspecting cables

The possibilities to progress within the field of automation are endless. From engineering to operational roles, there are a wealth of factors which make this an attractive industry in which to build a career, like continued demand for skills, the evolution of new markets and innovations, not to mention progressive employers like Sewtec. And in many cases, it all starts with an apprenticeship.

Many believe there has never been a better time to take up an apprenticeship in the UK. In 2017/18, there were 814,800 people participating in an apprenticeship in England alone, with engineering and manufacturing the third top sector for new apprenticeship starts.

Earn while you learn

With no student loans and no tuition fees, apprenticeships offer young people the chance to work towards a qualification, gaining the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in their chosen industry.

An apprenticeship in precision engineering, like other engineering disciplines, offers hands-on training, real-world experience and the chance to earn while you learn. Outside of engineering, there are also other operational departments integral to automation businesses which offer apprenticeships. At Sewtec, we currently have apprentices in HR, IT and finance positions, all of whom are getting first-hand experience of the different departments and learning the professions.

We see apprentices as long-term investments. Our goal is to help nurture the next generation of talent – whether they’re engineers working on the workshop floor, or finance and HR assistants helping with the day-to-day operations – and we believe apprenticeships are key to this.

Take an apprenticeship with Sewtec and you can benefit from exposure to different parts of the business, gain on-the-job knowledge and ultimately build a long-lasting, rewarding career. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

Shape your career

To showcase the opportunities for our apprentices, I’ve explored three key benefits of an apprenticeship below.

1. Enhanced business exposure

One of the biggest benefits of an apprenticeship in any sector is the exposure you can gain across different areas of the business.

A typical precision engineering apprenticeship in will give apprentices the opportunity to work in different areas before specialising in one specific role, such as CNC machining or electrical engineering. In operational roles, apprentices can gain exposure and experience of the day-to-day running of the business, from helping with the financial accounts to maintaining business-critical systems in an IT role.

This is important to help build experience and provide visibility across the business, but it also gives valuable exposure to different individuals too.

One of Sewtec’s apprentices, Tomas Preidy, explains this perfectly: “Throughout my apprenticeship here at Sewtec, I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside some brilliant, intelligent engineers who have been able to help develop my skills through offering support, advice and guidance. Even as an apprentice, I feel very much a part of the wider team and enjoy being able to speak with people across all levels of the business.”

2. On-the-job learning

The biggest difference between apprenticeships and some other routes through education into employment is the opportunity to learn on the job – not just in a classroom.

The engineering industry has an ageing workforce so it’s vital that we get the right people in to learn from our experienced engineers. In partnership with training providers, we combine workplace-learning with top-up classroom-based learning to deliver apprenticeships in automation.

Often the feedback from our trainees is that they are more interested in the practical side, so getting paid while they are learning and getting a qualification is always going to be more attractive.

Our apprentices in HR, IT and finance roles also gain hands-on experience from day one. This allows them to get the most out of their apprenticeship and get that on-the-job learning which will stand them in good stead for the rest of their careers.

3. Feel valued – a true business investment

At Sewtec, one of the most important things for us is to make sure our apprentices feel valued. For some organisations, apprentices can be a burden, especially since the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy. But we see the value in future talent and we’re proud to invest in our apprentices.

All Sewtec apprentices are offered permanent roles within the business, which is testament to the quality of person we hire. We do not see apprentices as cheap labour, but as the future talent of our business. And our focus on the future generation is not just lip service; take this quote from our technical director Gary Day, who started his career as an electrical apprentice and has worked for Sewtec for 22 years:

“We’re continually working with young people from apprentices to graduates, people who have the ambition to drive the precision engineering industry forward. By creating an environment that allows them to take a hand-on approach, I believe we provide them with the best opportunity to develop, innovate and build, ultimately taking on the mantle from my peers and me.”