New apprentice intake at Sheffield Forgemasters

Published: 5 April 2017

Sheffield Forgemasters’ latest tranche of 13 new apprentices has started work.

Sheffield Forgemasters, which produces castings and forgings for suppliers to the engineering, nuclear, and process industries, launched its search for suitable candidates late last year and attracted almost 400 applications.

The standard of applicant for the apprenticeship positions – which were last recruited for in September 2014 - was so high, that the company decided to extend the number of new apprentices by six to 19.

Aaron Weston, Ewan Firth, Rhianna Barthorpe, Sam Keane, Jacob Brown, Jack Rolley, Madison Hay, Ben Stocks, Jack Whittles, Callum Saunders, Matthew Smout, Jack Darlow and Harriett Eccles were all successful in gaining apprenticeship positions at Forgemasters starting immediately.

While Ethan Wheeler, Dean Lax, Oliver Depledge, Charlie Swann, Jacob Parkes and Charley Thompson will all start in September.

The apprentices, all from South Yorkshire, will cover positions from across the departments at the 64-acre site including mechanical engineers, electrical engineers; pattern making, moulder/coremaking, human resources and administration and machinists.

Graham Honeyman, chief executive of Sheffield Forgemasters, said: “There was a huge interest in the apprenticeship programme and because the standard of application was so high, we decided to increase the number of places.

“Recruiting and training apprentices is vital to the future of this business and the introduction of the Apprentice Levy next month has not affected our policy on this. We hope to recruit on average, seven apprentices year on year making use of the levy funds.

“Every year the standard gets higher and it was a very tough process to eliminate candidates and pick the final 19. They were all over the moon when they were told they were successful.

“In these somewhat challenging times for the sector, hiring apprentices is a very positive announcement, both for our business and the steel, manufacturing and engineering sectors as a whole.”

Forgemasters’ award winning, four-year apprenticeship programme, currently teaching a further 22 apprentices, has earned plaudits from education, training and sector experts and sees the company commit to a £1m training framework for its specialist staff.

Graham added: “Forgemasters prides itself on offering long term careers for school and college graduates and has had up to 70 apprentices – more than 10% of the 650 strong workforce – training at one time, in previous years.

“We have recruited 103 apprentices since 2007 with the scheme boasting a 92 per cent retention rate. Every apprentice that has graduated has been offered a full time permanent job.”

Most apprentices complete a four-year or an 'extended' apprenticeship, resulting in an Advanced Apprenticeship Level 3 Certificate or a foundation degree.

The company's current average employee age - 43 - has been reduced by eight years thanks to the launch of its apprenticeship programme in 2005.

The programme is backed by industry through providers including the Sheffield College, The Skills Academy for Manufacturing, and other local colleges, and is also validated by the Institute of Cast Metal Engineers and the Institute of Mechanical Engineers.

Year one will comprise of a four-six-month block of training at the Sheffield College or the AMRC Training Centre, followed by a six-month stint at the Forgemasters' site in the melt shop, foundry, forge or machine shops.

During the second year, apprentices receive intensive training and one-to-one mentoring on-site for four days a week, spending the remaining day at college. Year three sees completion of a vocational qualification at work and possibly the start of a certificate or foundation degree, which is completed during day-release in year four or five.

Forgemasters also prides itself on senior management coming up through this programme. Gareth Barker, who started with the firm as an 18-year-old apprentice engineer, has risen up the ranks to become group operations director.

The scheme and its apprentices have won numerous awards including apprenticeship of the year in the NEI Nuclear Training Awards, Top 100 Apprenticeship Employers from the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) and City & Guilds and the National Apprenticeship Awards Large Employer Award.