Industry is wasting billions of pounds every year on ineffective training according to two of the bosses behind the Institute for Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering (AME).

Unipart Group Chairman and CEO John Neill and Coventry University’s John Latham used the one-year anniversary of the UK’s first ‘Faculty on the Factory Floor’ to urge the sector to embrace a more ‘down to earth’ approach.

Over 100 delegates at its state-of-the-art manufacturing hub in Coventry heard how £42.9bn* of investment is channeled into training and development every year, yet over 145,000 jobs* are left unfilled due to a lack of skilled candidates.

The duo believe the AME blueprint is already offering a viable solution, with more than 60 young people currently completing innovative degree courses that will make them industry-ready.

“The original vision was to find a different way of educating engineering and manufacturing graduates so that when they finished their learning they could enter employment and make an immediate positive impact,” explained John Latham.

“We were already working with Unipart and both of us shared a passion to meet the growing skills gap. The result was a coming together of minds and investment in shaping the UK’s first ‘Faculty on the Factory Floor’, a place where young engineers could learn on ‘live’ manufacturing projects and from some of the best lecturers and engineers in the country.

“This ensures that the theory is applied into practice pretty much every day of their course and allows them to learn the softer skills of teamwork, project management and how to present ideas clearly.”

John Neill continued: “Skills was definitely the starting focus, but this quickly accelerated to look at how we could develop a world class R&D centre that focused on exploring new technologies for existing and new clients in automotive, aerospace, rail and renewables.

“All our solutions will meet an immediate or future customer need. We believe AME offers the opportunity for the UK to improve productivity by translating the knowledge and problem solving capabilities of our people into real competitive advantage.”

AME Achievements to date

• Two full cohorts of students recruited and working towards industry-ready degrees
• Six anchor technologies developed – analysis and simulation, automation and robotics, joining and welding, metrology, product verification and tube forming and manipulation
• Seven R&D projects secured in the first year, engaging with 10 customers/partners and 6 different funders
• New fuel rail developed for the Ford Fox Engine
• Lightweight exhaust system entering into low volume production for Aston Martin
• 12 supply chain firms engaged on live R&D projects

Backed by funding from HEFCE, over £32m and thousands of hours have been spent on bringing AME to life.

A 1700 sq metre manufacturing hub has been purpose built on Unipart’s manufacturing site in Coventry and is equipped with £3m of state-of-the-art training robots, robotic welding, tube bending, metrology and test equipment.

An expert team of engineers, lecturers, researchers and professors has also been recruited and are responsible for the innovative learning and shaping new technologies.

Professor Carl Perrin, Director of AME, concluded: “This showcase event was the first time we have been able to open our doors to show industry, academia and Government an innovative, but ‘down to earth’ approach to bridging the skills and productivity gap.

“The first 12 months have proved we have found a model that works and I believe there is potential to develop future AMEs across the country. Why stop at one?”