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The University of Wolverhampton teamed up with NatWest Bank recently to host an apprenticeship seminar – outlining degree apprenticeship opportunities available for local businesses.

The Breakfast Meeting, held at NatWest offices on the Wolverhampton Business Park, was attended by local engineering and manufacturing businesses keen to find out more about the opportunities offered by the University’s recently opened Apprenticeship Hub.

Michele Roberts, Head of the Apprenticeship Hub, gave an overview of how the University is partnering with local businesses on Higher and Degree Apprenticeships covering a wide variety of sectors including aerospace, automotive and construction.

The Apprenticeship Hub is a one stop destination for employers and apprentices with resources designed to help attract and retain new talent into local business.  Michele also gave an overview of the new Apprenticeship Levy which comes into force in April 2017.

She said: “We’ve teamed up with NatWest to speak directly to their customers to highlight the many advantages of Apprenticeships.  Businesses are now looking to recruit Apprentices or upskill their existing staff as a way of developing their workforce to ensure that they have adequate skilled staff to grow their business.

“National focus on new Degree Apprenticeships is opening all kinds of doors for employers who want to invest in the continued growth of their business and having an Apprenticeship Hub on the doorstep is an asset for the Black Country.”

Mark Dodwell, Director Commercial Banking Black Country and Shropshire NatWest, said: “At NatWest we are always looking at new ways to offer something additional to the service we provide.  Following feedback from the businesses we work with – especially in the manufacturing industry in the Black Country – recruitment is an ongoing concern.

“With an ageing workforce and growing skills gaps, it’s essential that employers explore all options available to them.  By teaming up with the University and the Apprenticeship Hub we can help local businesses tap into expertise and a range of resources that previously wouldn’t have been available to them.”

Melvin Sinar, Managing Director at Petford Group in Dudley, said: “We’ve been running this business for 42 years and have always invested in apprenticeships – but mostly for staff on the shop floor in tool-making.  We want to look at extending our programme to sales and project management, investing in our business through increasing our wider skills base, and depending on the employee we would most certainly look at Higher Degree Apprenticeships.”

Brett Wilcox, General Manager (Operations) at Eurofilms based in Telford, said: “We have dabbled in apprenticeships in the past, but mostly with school leavers, and not that successfully.  As a worldwide growing business we’ve exhausted our recruitment pathway and need to look at ways to upskill our existing talent because we have a growing gap between our operations and management staff.  The Higher Degree Apprenticeship route might well be an alternative route for us and the event today has been very interesting and offered food for thought for us as a business.”

The group was joined by Ian Fitzpatrick, Chief Executive for the new £12 million Elite Centre for Manufacturing Skills set to open at the former Springfield Brewery site in 2017. The centre will provide specialist training in tool-making, foundry, pattern-making, metal-forming/forging, advanced CNC and leadership/project management.The centre will be an employer led training facility designed to improve productivity and growth in the manufacturing sector.

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