The University of Salford has partnered with Siemens to deliver a bespoke workforce development solution addressing skills deficits in manufacturing automation.

Siemens, like many engineering companies, is facing a skills shortage and has experienced challenges in attracting new, young talent into the business. The company’s own research found that offering a degree through an apprenticeship route would be an attractive recruitment option. In 2015, Siemens approached the University of Salford to explore a collaborative approach addressing identified skills gaps within their business and customer base.

“The Fourth Industrial Revolution is upon us and digitalisation is transforming manufacturing and engineering. We need to attract and retain talent in our business and providing bespoke training solutions is the ideal way to do this.” – Jason Phinn, Training Solutions Manager, Siemens

As Siemens had already developed a strong higher apprenticeship programme, the University of Salford worked with Trafford College and Siemens to design a level 6 top-up year. This enables Siemens apprentices to continue obtain their HNC and HND & Higher Apprenticeship with Trafford College and subsequently progress to the University to complete their degree (BEng Control and Automation).

The innovative skills solution has the benefit of being co-designed and co-delivered with industry, so it directly addresses a sector core skill requirement, and it provides a single employer solution from Level 4 to Level 6 through an FE / HE partnership. The programme is designed to provide apprentices with the utmost flexibility through a block delivery model which meets the needs of the business and their customers. In September 2018, the first cohort of “top-up” degree students graduated, with 12 first-class degrees and one upper second-class degrees, or 2:1s.

Jason Phin, Siemens’ Training Solutions Manager, has described the course as a “fantastic success”. Speaking about collaborating with the University of Salford, he said: “Working with an FE and a HE partner, we are able to provide a single route from Level 4 to Level 6, covering the range of practical skills and technical understanding that is needed in our workforce to fully capitalise on the opportunities of Industry 4.0. We’re really lucky to have found such an engaging and innovative partner in the University of Salford.”

The subsequent change to Siemens’ Higher Apprenticeship programme has now become a fully-fledged degree apprenticeship and is offered to Siemens employees as well as those of thier customers, such as Amazon. From Siemens’ perspective, the degree apprenticeship and top-up solutions enable the firm to upskill and develop people at different points in their careers internally, but also within their customer base. The ‘top-up degree’ solution has also been rolled out as a separate CPD initiative enabling others to benefit from an academic upgrade without needing to undertake the formal multi-year, day-release degree apprenticeship.

This article first appeared in the 2019 State of the Relationship report published 19 June 2019.