Apprentices are a great way to build your team

For Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2017, we interviewed Robert Paterson, Training Officer from UTC Aerospace Systems. UTC has taken on 65 apprentices at their Prestwick operation over the last twenty years. Robert gives us an insight into the recruitment process at UTC.

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How many apprentices do you currently employ?

We currently have 15 apprentices at various stages of the process and we’re looking to start another four this year.

What’s your intake each year and does this vary year to year?

This varies, it can be anywhere between two and six depending upon the forecast of the business need at that particular time.  We have long-term visibility of a shortage in a particular department and we’ve used the apprentice intake to fill that gap on previous occasions.

How do you recruit? 

We handle the entire recruitment ourselves.  We select candidates for testing based upon their application forms.  The testing is a two part process; one part is psychometric testing and they complete three tests, the other part is a hands-on task during which they have to follow instructions and use a variety of hand tools in order to assemble a test piece.

Where do you advertise and is there a specific time of the year you do this?

It’s advertised internally on the notice boards for word-of-mouth publicity and we also place an advert in the local press along with our website and the local Chamber of Commerce and in local schools and college.

What entry qualifications are you looking for?

We have two different apprenticeships to offer this year;

Mechanic/Inspector – we’re looking for qualifications in National 5 at A or B in English, Physics and Maths.  A practical craft subject is desirable, but not essential.  The candidate should have a demonstrable interest in engineering and/or mechanical activities.

Business Apprentice – we’re looking for Highers in Maths, English and a business-related subject.

Tell us about the learning experience your apprentice will have with you

Mechanic/Inspector – The apprentice will spend most of the first year off-site gaining basic qualifications (an NC and an SVQ2).  The rest of the apprenticeship will be spent gaining further qualifications (an HNC and an SVQ3) and learning their trade.  They’ll do this by working closely with experienced mechanics/inspectors and attending college on a day-release basis, learning to use technical data to help in the diagnosis and repair of problems and gaining hands-on experience of overhauling and repairing the aero engine nacelle components we work on.  The apprentice will rotate through various work areas to gain more experience and a wider understanding of the business in general.

Business Apprentice – This is a three-year programme with the apprentice typically spending six months in each team they visit, for example, HR, Commercial and Finance.  During this time, they will be given a project which relates to that particular area and also the qualifications they are studying towards.  These qualifications will be an HNC at college on a day-release basis and an SVQ3.  The apprentice will spend the first two years rotating through four areas then specialising in one particular area for their final year.  They will experience a wide variety of tasks in their rotations and will learn about the business.

What skills and qualities does an apprentice bring to your team?

Enthusiasm along with an eagerness to learn and develop.

Why do you believe apprenticeships are a great way to build your team?

An apprenticeship allows you to grow with your company, earning and learning along the way.  They experience many different areas of the business and tasks.  This gives them much more comprehension about business in general and their employer in particular.  All of this leads to a competent, well-rounded, employee that has the potential to slot into numerous areas if required.

Can you share a success story about one of your apprentices?

An apprentice that started in 1998, Derek Mackin, is now a Business Unit Leader of a well-performing product team.  Derek became a fully-qualified Mechanic/Inspector upon completion of his apprenticeship and moved into a supervisory position a few years later.  He then took on a customer-facing role to increase his commercial knowledge and vision.  He was promoted to Business Unit Leader a few years after that.  Derek started with us as a school-leaver and he now heads one of the busiest teams in the company.

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