Engineering success through UK Apprentice Scheme

With an increasing number of employers welcoming apprentices, there are more opportunities than ever to get inside some of the most exciting and innovative companies in the UK.

The British Aerosol Manufacturers’ Association (BAMA) member company, Crown Aerosols UK, has run a successful Apprenticeship Scheme for the past six years. The objective is to attract highly motivated and capable candidates, encourage ‘home-grown’ expertise and retain talented engineering staff.
The programme is open to new employees as well as existing Crown staff, who are trained in-house to expand basic engineering skills as well as enhance the application of those skills in the workplace. To ensure a well-rounded programme, Crown combines the skills and experience of its own staff along with support from local partner colleges.
Graham Reed, EHS manager for Crown Aerosols UK, was one of the founding members of the scheme. He said: “By ensuring that our team is highly trained and confident in their work, we can offer better support as well as continuous innovation to our customers.
“Having completed an apprenticeship scheme myself many years ago, I wanted to ensure that others had the opportunity to improve and progress in their working lives as I did.”
CanTech International caught up with two Crown apprentices – Danny Lewis (Aged 24) and Tony Birch (aged 48) – to learn more about their jobs and how the apprentice scheme has benefited both the individuals and the company.

Danny Lewis ¬– Age 24 – Can line engineer

Danny Lewis applied for the Crown Apprenticeship when it was advertised on the internet. The position required Grade C GCSEs or above. At the time he was working as a Joiner and hadn’t considered going into engineering.

Danny’s apprenticeship has run for three and a half years and has included day-release to local colleges to complete external Level one, two and three EAL Diploma in Mechanical Engineering exams. During the apprenticeship Danny has worked with every department to learn the different skills needed at the Sutton plant. He has recently taken on the role of can line engineer, where he is responsible for the smooth running and maintenance of the aerosol line.

When asked whether he would recommend others becoming an apprentice, he said: “I would definitely recommend it; you learn something new every day and I know I will continue to do so, even though I have completed the apprenticeship. The hardest part of the job is when an error occurs on the line – it doesn’t happen very often, but I have to work out what it is and then fix it.”

Tony Birch – Age 48 – Can line engineer

Tony Birch applied to be a Crown Apprentice after working with the company for sixteen years. The notice for applicants was displayed on the noticeboards at Crown and at least twelve employees applied for just one position. Applicants had to undergo a series of aptitude tests that included written and practical exercises.

It was a major decision for Tony to apply for the apprenticeship in 2010, as he had a young family and it meant that he would have to leave his full-time paid production line job to take a drop in salary in order to complete the four year course, with weekly study leave at College.

When asked about the apprenticeship, Tony said: “The apprenticeship was the best three years of my working life. The people who worked at Crown helped me so much and taught me things that I would not usually have the opportunity to learn in my day job. For example, my tutor in the tool room took me through the different tooling machines, allowing me to learn new skills and putting those skills into practice effectively and safely – something I thoroughly enjoyed.”

Tony was such a good student that he completed the four year course in two and a half years and won the ‘Metals Apprentice of the Year Award’ in 2013 from The Worshipful Company of Tinplate Workers Alias Wire Workers. He was thrilled to win the award and remembers with pride the presentation that was held at Skinners Hall in London.

His job now entails making sure the production line runs smoothly: from the welding; checking the quality of the cans; right through to the seams; side striping; cured lacquer and high pressure testing. Completing the apprenticeship has enabled Tony to earn a higher salary than he was before in his former role on the production line.

In 2010 Crown was one of six companies shortlisted for the BAMA Awards and won the Social Responsibility category for its apprentice scheme. The BAMA Awards programme highlights success stories in the aerosols industry, from suppliers of components and ingredients to fillers and marketers of aerosol products. The Awards were created to recognise innovation and continuous improvement in the aerosol sector, from products to processes, including quality, safety, service and training.

For further information on the 2015 BAMA Awards go to www.bama.co.uk/forum

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