A pioneering Foundation Degree in Manufacturing Technology smashed its recruitment target as it welcomed its first students this week.

The two year, part time programme, launched by the University of Sheffield and its AMRC Training Centre, is designed to ensure bright, young people, who opt to start work straight from school, don’t miss out on a University qualification.

The Foundation Degree, which can be delivered as part of a Higher Apprenticeship, also aims to provide manufacturing industry with the higher skilled employees it desperately needs and could lead to a BEng degree after a further year of part time study.

The AMRC Training Centre had been set the target of recruiting five students to the first year of the course. However, the course proved so popular with trainees and companies spread across South Yorkshire and North Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire that 20 students signed up for the first year and a further four have already registered for next year.

Students’ ages range from 18 to 30, with most at the younger end. Two thirds of the students gained manufacturing qualifications at the AMRC Training Centre, while three of the students have been working in industry for some years.

The course is delivered using a blend of face to face learning - lectures, seminars and tutorials - with online and self-paced learning and support to enable the students to combine their studies while in full time employment. The programme has been designed in partnership with academic staff and employers to ensure students can graduate equipped to meet the current and future needs of the advanced manufacturing sector. 

“This Foundation Degree broadens access to the University,” said AMRC Training Centre Head of Training, Kerry Featherstone, speaking during a welcome event for the new students, their employers and companies considering sponsoring existing staff or recruiting new staff to join the programme.

“It gives young people who never thought of studying for a degree, or were put off by the prospect of running up debts to fund their studies, an opportunity to gain undergraduate and, maybe, post graduate qualifications while being fully employed and earning a wage.

“Manufacturers in our region and the rest of the UK desperately need people with a combination of vocational and academic skills if they are to compete internationally and this degree will bridge that gap.”

Students and employers attending the welcome event at the AMRC Training Centre got the chance to meet course lecturers, who are all AMRC researchers, working with industry to develop practical solutions to improve manufacturing performance.

Employers sponsoring staff on the Foundation Degree course range from large companies such as Rolls-Royce, Alcoa and Outokumpu to smaller, local firms such as Cutting & Wear and Technicut.

University of Sheffield Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Teaching and Learning, Professor Wyn Morgan, thanked companies for their support and emphasised the benefits they and the students would reap.

“This is going to be a very challenging and intense programme,” said Prof Morgan.

“The AMRC Training Centre has developed a very strong academic and technical programme that responds to what employers tell us they need, while maintaining the standards you would expect of a Russell Group University.

“Anyone who successfully completes this course and goes on to secure a BEng while continuing to hold down a challenging job in manufacturing will have thoroughly deserved their success and we are determined to provide them with the support they need.”

Other speakers at the event included Foundation Degree Programme Leader and Kathryn Jackson, from the Nuclear AMRC, together with Nathan Bailey, from the AMRC’s Integrated Manufacturing Group and Matthew Oxley from Kostal (UK) who are students on the inaugural course.

The AMRC Training Centre provides advanced apprenticeship and higher-level skills training. It has links with both Sheffield universities, enabling apprentices to go on to study for higher-level qualifications up to doctorate and MBA level, and offers a range of courses for continuing professional development.

The Centre opened its doors for the first class of 150 advanced apprentices in January 2014. Numbers have since risen to more than 500.

The Centre won the Times Higher Education Outreach Award for creating a blueprint for bridging the manufacturing skills gap and promoting social mobility at the same time

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