Page 1: Introduction
Sheffield Forgemasters International Ltd (SFIL) is a steel producer and engineering company. Based in South Yorkshire, the heartland of traditional steel production, the company has six subsidiaries, including operations in America and Europe. It is one of the biggest private sector employers in the area.
The company manufactures bespoke heavy steel castings and forgings. SFIL specialises in providing high quality total engineering packages for its customers. It supplies businesses in many industrial sectors, with customers in the defence, nuclear, oil and gas exploration, power generation, marine and construction industries.
Engineering is a highly skilled and specialised profession so SFIL needs well-trained employees. SFIL offers employees industry-leading training courses that are tailored to its own needs. It has been running a highly acclaimed apprenticeship programme since 2005. The company invests £1 million a year into this programme. It allows the company to supply its next generation of skilled workers, trained to its own high standards. Apprentices will form the future backbone of the business. Some apprentices have progressed to supervisory and managerial positions. As Graham Honeyman, SFIL’s Chief Executive, explains:
‘Our commitment to apprenticeships is evidenced by them gaining permanent positions and rewarding salaries from day one.’
Applicants to the programme are usually aged between 16 and 24 years old. This allows SFIL to train young people in the ‘Forgemasters Way’ and to benefit from government funding. Apprentices are trained in all areas of the business. They do a variety of jobs during their apprenticeship and experience the many roles needed in steel-making and heavy engineering.
The scheme has an excellent reputation. It received the Large Employer of the Year award at the 2011 National Apprenticeship Awards. SFIL also features as one of the top 100 apprenticeship employers in the UK. It is proving attractive for many young people. As Dan, a 20-yearold apprentice, states:
‘I chose this scheme because SFIL has a really good reputation in my local area and I knew this could lead to a job for life.’
This case study looks in more detail at SFIL’s apprenticeship programme. It draws on the experiences of three current apprentices: Dan, Kurt and Rebecca. It also considers the broader training challenge for a modern engineering business such as SFIL.