Continuous improvement is not a new concept within manufacturing and engineering, but applying it to an Apprenticeship Scheme as part of benchmarking and best practice sharing is.
However, engineering firms from across the UK have been sharing their views on how benchmarking whilst sharing best practice with other firms has positively impacted their Apprenticeship schemes and made them more attractive employers.
The companies are part of the Next Gen Makers Engineering Apprenticeships: Best Practice Programme, a large online community of UK engineering and manufacturing firms committed to achieving excellence in how they attract, develop, and retain young engineering talent through best practice sharing, whilst working to achieve best practice benchmarks.
They are also the latest to receive the Make UK Engineering Apprenticeships: Employer Kitemark accreditation as part of the programme, with LISI Aerospace, Renishaw, Petford Group, Kirkstall Precision Engineering, Siemens Digital Industries, SMC and Whale Tankers recieving the Kitemark for the first time this July – and Thomas Dudley Limited, KUKA, Weir Minerals, Wienerberger UK, Fablink Group, Eminox and Ishida successfully retaining their accreditation.
The Make UK Engineering Apprenticeships: Employer Kitemark Accreditation recognises exemplar employers of engineering apprentices – companies that have undergone a 12-month accreditation process that includes satisfaction surveys of existing engineering apprentices and benchmarking of the company’s apprenticeship scheme against industry best practices. The Kitemark Accreditation is quickly becoming a badge of honour for companies that ‘go the extra mile’ in creating a great apprentice experience for the engineers of the future.
Companies are recognised with either the Gold standard Excellent Employer Kitemark status, or the Silver standard Aspiring for Excellence status – helping them to differentiate and stand out as attractive employers for potential engineering apprentices moving forward.
So why is this all proving to be beneficial? We asked representatives of these companies to learn more and get their unique perspectives…
Employer feedback highlights benefits of sharing best practice
“The benchmarking and best practice sharing has really been useful in helping us to understand what we can do better, as well as enjoy what we are doing well. We have definitely improved our Apprenticeship Scheme as a result of being involved in this Programme, because before we thought we were doing the right thing, whereas now we have clear guidance based on what works well for others and can do so for us.
“There is so much guidance to ensure our Apprentices are getting exactly what they need and it has helped to engage the whole of the business too. Achieving the Kitemark was the icing on the cake – nice recognition after we have worked so hard on our Apprenticeship Scheme. It will now help us with recruitment and holds us to task to make sure we keep up the motivation and our standards moving forward”, comments Sarah King, Strategic HR Project Lead at SMC.
Mark Capell, General Manager of Rugby based LISI Aerospace adds: “We’ve been working with Apprentices for many years but in the early days it was quite ad hoc and hit and miss in the results. The benefit of bechmarking is that we can share best practice, determine whether our ideas are actually good and we can really maximise the potential of our scheme. Since being involved in the Best Practice Programme, I can safely say our Apprenticeship Scheme has improved, it has evolved and stabilized, we are far more successful at finding and retaining young talent as a result. Having the Kitemark really demonstrates to local schools, Colleges and students that we have a quality scheme and are a great choice for them”.
As well as benefitting from new ideas, Johnny Mathieson, Early Careers Professionals Manager at Siemens Digital Industries says that “the benchmarking has really benefited us because it validates what we are already doing. It was a real eye opener for us because we are doing a lot of things really well, but it is an opportunity for us to develop what we have already got further. It has been really invaluable, especially with an OFSTED inspection, who really valued that we had already had our approach to running our Apprenticeship Scheme validated. We see the Kitemark as highlighting that we are a serious employer for Apprenticeships and how important Apprentices are to our business”.
Michele Bickerton, People & Development Director at Thomas Dudley Group adds: “benchmarking within this programme has definitely benefited us because it makes you think about where you are at, what you can do more of and what you can do better. We can all think we are doing the best we can but when you compare the approach against best practice it does identify gaps, which you can then further improve on. We can tell a story to aspiring engineers about how we benchmark and internally the Kitemark benefits us too because our Apprentices see we are getting recognition for our efforts to make their experience as good as possible”.
Iqbal Bahia, MD of Leeds based Kirkstall Precision Engineering explains further: “For us benchmarking drew a line in the sand and highlighted where we were at. If you can’t measure something you can’t improve it, so to have that measure enabled us to identify where we can improve it. That made us be more focused internally on what we were doing, and also focused on what the College were doing for us too. The feedback from the independent survey of our existing Apprentices was absolutely fantastic, it highlighted where we were strong and also gave us focus to improve. We know that there is a recruitment shortage in the market and for us to recruit the best Apprentices we need to show them that we are committed. Having the Kitemark shows potential Apprentices that Kirkstall Precision are an organisation that takes Apprentice training seriously”.
Companies can join the Engineering Apprenticeships: Best Practice Programme at any time to benchmark, learn and improve their apprenticeship scheme.
When they feel that they are ready, those that meet the qualifying criteria of having at least three current engineering apprentices can then opt in to one of four annual accreditation cycles; January, April, July and October. All companies are re-accredited each year to retain the Kitemark or improve their achieved Kitemark level.