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Training the future

19 September 2016

There has never been a better time to become an apprentice; HepcoMotion embraces this idea with its popular and dedicated training program.

From left to right - Maurice Porter, Group Training Manager and Kai Shinn-Handell, Toby Cowan, Andrew Crew, Jenny Spence, Calum Hutcheon, Steven Anderson and Jake Thompson - Hepco's first year apprentices based at its headquarters.

Many changes are on the horizon for apprenticeships. The new Apprenticeship Levy is due to come into effect in April 2017, resulting in a new business charge for employers with a pay bill of over £3M a year whether they employ apprentices or not. This will fundamentally change the way employers of all sizes access support for apprentice training. 

Despite concern over the Apprenticeship Levy, there has never been a better time to employ an apprentice or start an apprenticeship. According to a Government publication, apprenticeship participation now stands at a record level; 871,000 funded apprentices undertook an apprenticeship between 2014-2015. 

One such company who is reinforcing the importance of apprenticeships is HepcoMotion. With the addition of eleven new apprentices this year, Hepco is committed to the development of young, enthusiastic engineers who have the desire to progress up the career ladder. Offering a well-renowned apprenticeship scheme, Hepco has a strong history working with apprentices as many of the managers and even the chairman himself, started work at HepcoMotion as apprentices. Indeed, nearly 50 percent of Hepco’s engineering production staff are either apprentices or former apprentices.

Seven of the new intakes are assigned to the company’s flagship production site in Tiverton – five to work as engineering apprentices, while for the first time, the remaining two Tiverton apprentices have been recruited to work in Hepco’s marketing and sales department. Three are based at Braintree Precision Components, the HepcoMotion Group responsible for the manufacture of the core bearings required for the linear motion systems. The remaining apprentice is based at HepcoAutomation – part of the Hepco Group responsible for providing advanced automation solutions. Year on year Hepco has augmented its skilled workforce with a fresh intake of apprentices – this year raises the bar with the record intake and the distribution across multiple business disciplines.

Three talented apprentices from HepcoMotion in Tiverton have been shortlisted for a prestigious regional apprentice award at this year’s EEF Future Manufacturing Awards. With a dedicated training program, this is the third consecutive year that Hepco apprentices have been shortlisted for the well-renowned award. 

Thomas West, Matthew Dower and Craig Capel were selected along with 18 other apprentices from across the South West after impressing judges with their hard work, dedication and determination to pursue a career in manufacturing.

The apprentices will find out who has been crowned regional winner at a ceremony taking place at At-Bristol, Anchor Rd, Bristol on 9 November 2016. If successful, they will then go on to compete with other regional winners from across the UK for a national title. This will be announced at an awards gala dinner in London early next year.

Matthew Dower, apprentice at HepcoMotion, says: “I am still in the early stages of my career, but my apprenticeship has opened up doors and I can see a clear path to working in a sector that I enjoy and where I feel my achievements are valued. I hope that other young people can see this and are inspired to take up an apprenticeship in manufacturing too.” 

Exclusive interview with Craig Capel, First Year Higher Apprentice at HepcoMotion:

1. Describe the course and what it involves 

I’m currently in the second year of a four-year higher apprenticeship course at HepcoMotion. The course combines on-the-job training with day-release at a local college, where I’m studying for an HNC in Production Engineering.

The first year of my apprenticeship was spent in Hepco’s specialist Training School learning key engineering skills such as CNC machining, Manual Milling and Manual Turning. Since then I’ve been rotating around the business working in key areas such as marketing and R&D

2. What interested you the most about this apprenticeship opportunity?

Hepco’s apprenticeship appealed to me because it meant I could earn while I learn, whilst gaining nationally recognised qualifications. Additionally, many of Hepco’s apprentices have gone on to have long and successful careers within the company, which really appealed to me in terms of progression and job security. 

3. Why did you feel this was the best option for you (as opposed to university)?

I was interested in going to university, in fact, I had already applied and had been given offers by all of my choices, but I was worried that university would focus too much on the theoretical knowledge, but give little experience in industry. 

Craig Capel, First Year Higher Apprentice at HepcoMotion

I became an apprentice to satisfy this need for a more comprehensive knowledge. Being an apprentice is an amazing experience where you can combine learning and on the job training, which results in the start of an interesting and varied career.

4. What are some of the skills you have learned?

I have learnt a tremendous amount since starting my apprenticeship about engineering, business and industry alike. Through my education at college I have learnt about general engineering, project management, electronic principles, mechanical principles and using CAD software

At work I have learnt a tremendous amount about more specific skills to my industry, such as machining skills, including the use of CNC. I have also learnt about engineering design, and have had a lot of experience with Solidworks and how it is used in industry rather than just in education. HepcoMotion also sent me on a Solidcam training course which was really beneficial to re-enforce my previous knowledge of this software

I was also lucky to go on an educational visit to Munich through my college in April, where I learnt a lot about CAD/CAM processes, in particular, SolidCam.  SolidCam is a program that I will be using a lot in my future career with HepcoMotion. 

5. How was your decision supported at school/college?

College had very little involvement, although a few teachers did take a personal interest and gave me a lot of advice. These teachers are all very happy that I have found a good apprenticeship and have some strong prospects ahead of me at HepcoMotion. 

6. What are your expectations for the future?

I have always had an interest in how things work, and since starting higher education I have developed a further interest in CAD design and Mechanical principles. My aspiration in this company is to work in a CAD/CAM department or Research and Development. 

In the next 5-10 years I would like to see myself further improve my skills and pushing my career. I would like to hold a position of responsibility, such as a team leader, or the manager of my chosen department. Additionally, I would like to further my education and I aspire to have a Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. I feel this would give me the skills necessary to successfully implement a CAD/CAM department at HepcoMotion.

In the far future, I would like to become a charted engineer. I would love to have the knowledge and set of skills that charted engineers currently hold. I feel these skills would be invaluable to my company and I would be able to help the company increase production, working towards our business goals and mission statement. 

7. What advice would you have for those looking to get into engineering?

I would advice those who are looking to get into engineering to consider all the routes to get there. Whether it’s an apprenticeship or university, I believe that as long as a person works hard they will achieve their goals. I would thoroughly recommend the apprenticeship route into engineering as I find it challenging and rewarding, with plenty of prospects. Many of Hepco’s former apprentices are now working in senior positions within the company, including the Production Manager, Purchasing Manager and the Chairman himself. This gives me plenty of motivation to continue succeeding in the company.


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