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This week’s blog is dedicated to my first company visit – Southco Manufacturing! I’d like to give you an insight into the company that took me on to complete my apprenticeship. Over the next 12 months, through this blog, together we will visit various companies offering apprenticeships throughout Worcestershire. Understanding how both the company, and their apprentices, value apprenticeships.

Southco Manufacturing Limited is part of a Global organisation employing over 3,500 people worldwide. We have two sites in the UK one in Worcester (350 people) and the other in Farnham, Surrey (115 people). Southco Manufacturing is the world leader in the design and manufacture of latches and access hardware with a client list of major companies in most industrial sectors.

The pathways we offer are both craft and technical within many of our engineering and manufacturing departments, inclusive of, but not limited to, the tool room, quality, and design. These will last for between two and four years, depending on the level of apprenticeship offered. We currently employ 11 apprentices and the typical qualifications expected of you would depend on the type of apprenticeship you are looking for. From at least three C’s at GCSE including English and Maths for NVQ level 3, to A Levels or equivalent for higher apprenticeships. You will undertake at least one of the following courses during your apprenticeship; BTec, HNC, or HND as well as NVQ Level 2 & 3 in Manufacturing/Mechanical Engineering. To apply for an apprenticeship with us is mainly through our training providers, who advertise on our behalf through the government website.

From what I have seen at Southco Manufacturing, apprentices can be the future pipeline of technical resources in the business. Through this experience, I’ve seen that apprentices can move through the business with great success. There is a supportive culture of learning and development and an established apprenticeship programme in the UK which enables individuals to grow and learn from experts in their chosen field. I for example, have taken on further study to become a graduate and have the added advantage of understanding how the company works, its ethos, and learning new skills on the job as I study.

I also managed to get some time with a few of our apprentices to see what they think of apprenticeships and why they chose this pathway.

Jack Dennehy, Design Engineering Apprentice, had this to say about apprenticeships, “You need to have an idea of what you would like to pursue as a career. An apprenticeship usually focuses on a specific area within industry i.e. Manufacturing Engineering, Design Engineering, etc. For me, being an apprentice is fantastic! I spend my time learning about my chosen industry and focusing on parts of the job I would like to specialise in. Not only this, I work in the “real world” so am developing a broader knowledge base which helps when doing my part-time studies. I am currently studying a Mechanical Engineering Higher National Certificate. This relates well to my current job role.”

Matthew Davies, Manufacturing Apprentice, had the following reason for why he decided to follow this pathway, “While completing a Level 3 Engineering BTEC, and searching for a full time job, all the companies wanted at least 3-4 years’ experience, which I didn’t have. I wanted to start earning money as I was 17 years old, and learning to drive, so I looked into different apprenticeships and found all sorts of jobs at different levels that I could do.”

Charlie Stainforth, Operational Excellence Apprentice, feels that “100% yes, an apprenticeship is worth completing over another pathway. You are getting the best of both! You’re gaining a qualification, which is what you get if you go to university, but also getting paid and gaining work experience, which you would get if you left college and went straight into work.

When Andrew Higginson, Tool Room Apprentice, was asked whether he would have done anything differently he said “The only thing would have been to have started my apprenticeship earlier. Starting down this pathway is one of the best things I have done with my life. I did A Levels in Computing, Business Studies, and IT. I found that school was always university focused. One of my friends went from school straight into an apprenticeship at 16. He has now finished his apprenticeship, while I am just starting mine, he has a Higher National Certificate, and he is getting job offers from lots of companies via sites like LinkedIn.”

Southco is one of many local companies throughout Worcestershire offering apprenticeship pathways. I hope that by giving you an insight into this business, and it’s apprentices, you feel motivated in investigating pathways into apprenticeships a little more than before you started reading this blog.

Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Until next time! For regular updates, follow @No1_apprentice