Royal launch for pioneering centre that bridges the engineering skills gap20 October 2014
HRH the Duke of York praised the commitment of apprentices and trainers when he opened The University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre's pioneering Training Centre.
The Duke of York, an active supporter of expanding access to apprenticeships, told apprentices, staff and guests: "I'm blown away by the commitment of everybody here to what is the future."
During his tour, His Royal Highness was shown how the AMRC Training Centre combines state-of-the-art educational facilities with training workshops, equipped with production-class manufacturing equipment.
The Duke of York also had the opportunity to meet some of the Centre's 260 current trainees, their employers and training centre staff.
The Centre, on the Advanced Manufacturing Park at Catcliffe, near Rotherham, trains highly skilled apprentices essential to UK manufacturing's future international growth.
It will eventually provide places for 750 young people, aged 16 and upwards.
Apprentices will be able to go on to study for higher-level qualifications up to doctorate and MBA level, thanks to the Centre's links with both Sheffield universities.
This major innovation in training has already led to the Centre being shortlisted for the prestigious Times Higher Education Widening Participation Initiative of the Year Award.
Apprentices come from a wide range of manufacturers with operations in the Sheffield city region, including Tata Steel, Rolls-Royce, Sheffield Forgemasters, AESSEAL, MTL Group and Newburgh Engineering, in addition to the AMRC group itself.
The Centre also offers a range of continuing professional development courses to ensure companies' existing staff keep abreast of new advances that will enable them to be globally competitive.
The Vice-Chancellor of The University of Sheffield Professor Sir Keith Burnett said: "We are delighted to once again welcome The Duke of York to the AMRC. His Royal Highness has supported the work of our engineers and member companies every step of the way, and we know he takes real personal satisfaction in seeing how our research is being applied within UK companies helping them to compete even more effectively for business around the world.
"The Duke of York has also always been aware that this work is about more than products, it is about the skills and jobs which offer opportunity to young people and which change their lives. Welcoming him to our Training Centre will allow His Royal Highness to meet these talented young people for himself and to see how the AMRC is developing the manufacturing engineers of the future."
Training Centre Director of Training, Alison Bettac, added: "We believe we have been able to show the Duke the blueprint for developing the high-quality vocational education and skills British manufacturing desperately needs and a route into further and higher education for young people who might otherwise never consider or be able to afford going to university."
Newburgh Engineering chairman, Vince Middleton praised the AMRC Training Centre for turning something employers had dreamed of into reality.
"It is amazing how critical and important the Training Centre is," said Mr Middleton. "If you have an apprentice there for 12 months, you know they are going to start contributing to your business as soon as they return.
"It also enables young people to realise that an engineering apprenticeship isn't a dead end, but the start of a long and fruitful career where they can progress, and an educational pathway that can take them to university and a degree."
Apprentice Mark Innes, who is studying for an extended diploma in engineering and hopes to go on to university, agreed.
"There is nothing to compare with the training centre," he said. "The training it provides and the equipment is possibly the best you can get in the country.
"If you have got an apprenticeship, you are employed straight off, rather than going direct to university and then struggling to find a job. The Training Centre gives you a working understanding of how industry and engineering works as a whole, so that when you go to university you already understand the practice."