Sheffield Forgemasters apprenticeships - Forging skills for the next generation

8 January 2014



UK-based Sheffield Forgemasters spends £1 million a year on its apprenticeship programme, which was chosen as the apprenticeship of the year by a panel of judges in the NEI Nuclear Training Awards 2013.


Sheffield Forgemasters apprentice at work

Apprentices make up almost 7% of the workforce at Sheffield Forgemasters, which produces castings and forgings for suppliers to the engineering, nuclear, and process industries. The company's current average employee age - 42 - has been reduced by eight years thanks to the launch of its apprenticeship programme in 2005.

"Most apprentices complete a four-year or 'extended' apprenticeship"

Apprentices of between 16 and 19 years old are taken on each September. Nine started in 2013 (one in admin/accounts, four machinists, one production planner; one test house technician, one forge estimator/metallurgist and one NDT technician). There were over 200 applications for these places. Most apprentices complete a four-year or 'extended' apprenticeship, which usually results in a certificate or foundation degree.

"Excellent company training programme for a wide range of skills. Innovative training with sector skills council and other providers,"said judge David Whitmore, Atkins global engineering and technical director.

"During the second year apprentices receive intensive training and one-to-one mentoring at Forgemasters for four days a week"

Year one comprises a six-month block of training at the Tata Steel Academy, also in Sheffield, followed by a six-month stint at the Forgemasters' site in the melt shop, foundry or machine shop. During the second year apprentices receive intensive training and one-to-one mentoring at Forgemasters for four days a week, spending the remaining day at college. Year three would see completion of a vocational qualification at work and possibly a start to a certificate or foundation degree, which would be completed during day-release in year four.

The programme is backed by industry through providers including the Science, Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies Alliance (SEMTA), The Skills Academy for Manufacturing, the Tata Steel Academy and local colleges, and is also validated by the Institute of Cast Metal Engineers and the Institute of Mechanical Engineers.

"Judges praised the programme's high staff retention rate of 85%"

Judges praised the programme's high staff retention rate of 85% and the level of interest that runs through the company, right up to board level. "There is evidence of senior management coming through this programme," noted Whitmore. A notable example is Gareth Barker who started with the firm as an 18-year-old apprentice engineer, and has risen up the ranks to become managing director of the forgings division, with responsibility for 450 staff.

Other shortlisted courses

  • Eastern European Research Reactor Coalition (Technical University Vienna/Atominstitut)
  • Higher Technician for Maintenance in Nuclear (Institut Régional Universitaire Polytechnique Saint Etienne)
  • Mechanical Apprenticeship (Interserve)
  • Operation Supervisor in Nuclear (Institut Régional Universitaire Polytechnique Saint Etienne)

The Eastern European Research Reactor Coalition won a special award for the apprenticeship of the year category

Sheffield Forgemasters logo Sheffield Forgemasters logo
Sheffield Forgemasters apprentice Sam Abbots in Sheffield Forgemasters apprentice, Sam Abbotts in March 2011
Sheffield Forgemasters apprentice Sheffield Forgemasters apprentice
Sheffield Forgemasters apprentice Sheffield Forgemasters apprentice
Gareth Barker who started with the firm as an 18-year-old apprentice engineer, and has risen up the ranks to become managing director of the forgings division Gareth Barker who started with Sheffield Forgemasters as an 18-year-old apprentice engineer, and has risen up the ranks to become managing director of the forgings division
NEI Nuclear Training Awards 2013 winner NEI Nuclear Training Awards 2013 winner


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