OAS, based at Culham Science Centre near Abingdon, offers high quality training for apprentice engineers and technicians at technology businesses in the Thames Valley.

It has already delivered training to more than 90 learners working for more than 20 local businesses, and the team has ambitious plans for the next 12 months to deliver even greater impact into the local engineering industry.

The first cohort of apprentices is now completing its year-one assessments before heading back to employers to begin on-the-job training, while other learners continue to progress through their vocational programmes at the centre, which is managed by the Manufacturing Technology Centre.

Meanwhile, the OAS team is getting ready to welcome the latest group of new apprentices on site later this month to begin their training programme.

OAS operations manager Emma Johnstone said the first year had been a testing but rewarding time with some unexpected challenges.

“I’m so proud of what we’ve achieved, despite all the extra challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic. Our learners and trainers adapted to the ‘new normal’ so quickly, and as a result we are only a couple of weeks behind our original schedule in spite of the months of disruption.

“Our recruitment team has worked hard to support our record number of applicants through virtual interviews and assessments, and we’re looking forward to welcoming the successful recruits onto the first steps of their apprenticeship journey.

OAS is a partnership between the UK Atomic Energy Authority and the Science and Technology Facilities Council. The two organisations have a history of apprentice training in science and engineering stretching back more than 70 years. The MTC’s Advanced Engineering apprenticeship helps learners develop the skills industry needs to deliver the technologies of the future in the high value manufacturing sector.

Director of OAS David Martin says: “The opening ceremony seems like yesterday, but here we are a year on. Thanks to the huge efforts of so many people, we have a busy and very successful training centre producing highly skilled technicians. The centre is set to exceed last year's number of apprentices by a good margin, with an estimated 200 this academic year along with an expanding syllabus.

“This is just the start. We’re already planning the expansion of OAS to new locations across the UK in areas including space, nuclear design, robotics and power engineering. We’re also really pleased that the government is backing our pilot project to increase diversity in apprenticeships and improve access to people from disadvantaged backgrounds.”

David Hughes, managing director of the Advanced Manufacturing Training Centre adds: “It’s been a huge team effort and this anniversary is a great opportunity to celebrate the contributions of everyone who has supported OAS so far. Together, we’re creating the next generation of future-focused engineering experts. We’d like to thank our new tooling provider, Ceratizit, and our employer partners for their ideas and support. Most importantly, we want to recognise all of our wonderful learners who have been so flexible and committed to their learning despite the challenges this year has thrown at them. We’re so proud to support them to fulfil their potential.”

Adds Hughes: "It’s an exciting time at OAS, and we’re looking forward to what the next year will bring. We’re launching a new Level 4 apprenticeship programme next month, an additional cohort of Level 3 apprentices in November, and creating more bespoke short courses in partnership with local employers. In addition, we’re launching a new inclusion programme to help to make engineering a more accessible career path for all.”