The Engineering Trust

The benefits of taking on an apprentice

With the introduction of the Apprenticeship levy in 2017, more and more businesses across Oxfordshire and across the country are looking to apprenticeships as a way of bringing new talent into their business and as a tool for current employee CPD.


The Engineering sector actually has a rich history of apprenticeships so although the funding model has changed and more recently the delivery structure has changed from frameworks to standards, apprentices have been filling skill gaps in engineering businesses for many years. A high proportion of the managers and owners we work with were apprentices themselves and are using the levy system and government funding to give the same opportunities to a new wave of apprentices, growing the talent within their current businesses.

Oxfordshire especially has a shortage of skilled engineers and technicians within niche trades. The county has high employment rates and a high cost of living so attracting talent from outside the region can be difficult. The answer for many is to develop talent of their own, training apprentices to suit the needs of their business in the specific skills they require.

Equally, Engineering businesses are using apprenticeships as a means to continue the development of their current staff team, offering them further training within their competency area or changing their career paths completely. Mentoring an apprentice can also be used as a form of CPD for a manager bringing company-wide benefit.  

SRD - High Quality Precision Engineering

SRD Engineering are a prime example of a business who have utilised the benefits of Engineering Apprenticeships. A high quality precision engineering company based in Bicester, SRD has built an outstanding reputation for high quality precision engineering serving a wide range of industries including Aerospace, Formula One, Medical, Oil & Gas and the Food Industry.

Set up by three CNC machinists in 1989, they seized an opportunity to become one of the best machine shops in the area using their expertise to rival the competition. Steady growth has seen their staff team swell to over 70 skilled members who are dedicated to the highest quality standards, allowing the business to operate at the forefront of the UK precision engineering sector. Continuous investment in advanced technology has ensured their ability to meet the growing demand for high tolerance machining services.

So what has this got to do with Apprenticeships?

SRD’s current Production Manager, Operations Manager, Cell Team Leaders, Managing Directors & Chairman all have been apprentices. Many of the management have worked their way through the business and see the benefit of developing their own talent.

As well as investing in technology SRD have invested in their people. Seeing the decline in experienced machinists and the lack of locally available skilled staff, SRD formed a program delivering in-house training to new and current staff which proved to be very successful. In the last 5 years SRD have taken on 5 apprentices and 4 trainees which for an SME is a big commitment both in terms or time and finances.

Focusing on the apprentice element, those staff have gained a high level of skill from the in-company work and training, backed up by theory and skills taught in a college. The combination works, providing the staff member with a professional qualification whilst also developing their skill set and experience within the business – giving SRD a rich talent pool for the future.

Mark Bonham, Director at SRD Engineering spoke about the benefits SRD have found in taking on apprentices

“With the intensive training our apprentices receive through our in-house training and via the colleges, we find that their learning curve happens at a fast rate. Meaning we have apprentices that develop skill quickly, often becoming higher skilled than many of our long standing employees within only a few years. We aim to have apprentices fully skilled in machining and programming with 5 years”

“SRD will continue to employ apprentices as we find this provides our business a great affordable low risk employment program. It gives us an opportunity to train staff in our way and we are not dependent on that employee hitting the “numbers” that we would be required if we had to bring in high salary people early on. We have time to mould them to exactly what the company requires, and in return it gives the apprentice a great opportunity to gain experience and skills, climbing the ladder as they progress through the business”.

How ETT work with SRD

SRD’s story is one we encounter a lot with the employers we work with. A highly skilled business, SRD put a lot of work into their training and they need a flexible approach to their apprenticeship delivery in order for it to be beneficial to the business.

ETT provides this flexibility in terms of how we manage the training, manage the college access for the apprentices and how we support the business in terms of the company training plan assessment and delivery. The level of contact time out Training Officers put into each apprentice and the quality of their input as people with an engineering background all feed into ensuring a high quality of apprentice is produced at the end of the process, ready to add to SRD’s ongoing success. 

Written by Jovan, Training Officer