A Redditch training centre delivering top class apprenticeships in cutting-edge engineering fears it won’t be able to find 30 students to fill its vacancies.
Lee Weatherly, chief executive of Midland Group Training Services (MGTS), which is backed by both the Worcestershire and Birmingham Local Enterprise Partnerships which have match-funded the centre to the tune of £800,000, says the problem isn’t attracting employers, it’s attracting students.
“One of the challenges we’ve got is filling the 30 vacancies we have here in Redditch. It’s a matter of getting the message across to young folk and their mums and dads that we offer fantastic opportunities,” he said.
“Engineering has moved on greatly. It’s far more about manufacturing systems and automation – it’s a science. There’s a lot of engineering excellence in this part of the world and we have got to make sure it stays here.”
A key driver behind bringing employers, trainers and apprentices together in Redditch has been the leader of the borough council, Councillor Bill Hartnett, himself a former apprentice who now works in the aerospace industry.
“We have employers like Jaguar Land Rover, HS2 and aerospace industries crying out for engineers, and we’re an engineering town with a proud history behind us and we want to have a future too.
“For example there are springs from Redditch used in space. These are high tech bits of kit not a coiled piece of metal and this country needs an engineering basis because we cannot all be employed in the service sector.”
Councillor Bill Hartnett has also been a key player helping MGTS offer an even higher level of training in Redditch.
“The demand of good engineers has outstripped the qualifications on offer,” said Mr Weatherly.
“We offer what we call bronze, silver, gold and platinum training, but for gold and platinum we have to bus out apprentices to Coventry. We now have plans to move to a new centre in Arrow Road North where we’ll be able to offer those standards right here in Redditch and Bill has been passionate about us achieving that.”
On Wednesday MGTS was visited by Labour shadow secretary for communities and local government Jon Trickett MP who praised both MGTS and Redditch council: “This is a very exciting place; Redditch has a world beating reputation in engineering and it’s great to come here and see a council that is really caring and supportive of people who need proper jobs, particularly so as the amount of money it receives has fallen by £250 per head of population ever since 2010.”
This report originally appeared in the Redditch Standard in 8th April edition.