Partners have invested £12.6 million in the future of manufacturing in the region by opening bespoke, dedicated training centres and working with existing training providers to equip people with skills that include casting, toolmaking, patternmaking, metal forming and foundry training, as well as mechatronics, product design and development, and advanced computer numerical control.

Some 40 apprentices from manufacturing companies across the Black Country, Birmingham, Leicester, Lincolnshire, Norfolk and Sheffield are currently studying for Level 3 qualifications in pattern making, metal forming and tool making.

Ian Fitzpatrick, chief executive of the ECMS, says: “It’s wonderful to see our first cohort of apprentices bringing the National Foundry Training Centre to life. The University of Wolverhampton, with partner organisations, has invested in the future of manufacturing by opening dedicated training centres to equip people with an array of skills – some of which have not been seen in the Black Country for years.

“Apprenticeships are on offer for the industries that formed the backbone of the industrial revolution,” he adds. “Tool making, foundries, pattern making and metal forming are being revived, finding their place alongside training in mechatronics, product design and development, and advanced CNC.”

Mark Rixham, managing director of Simpson Patterns in Sheffield, says: “It used to be a badge of honour to be studying for an apprenticeship, and it’s really encouraging to see the ECMS bringing some pride and recognition back to the industry.

“Over the past few decades, there haven’t been any apprenticeship models that suited the industry and there’s a real shortage of pattern makers,” he continues. “Our core business is traditional pattern making, but we also make patterns for composite parts and mould systems, and components for businesses in construction, automotive, marine and aerospace, and we’re very much looking at emerging markets. Pattern makers have huge transferrable skills, and studying for an apprenticeship offers young people a wealth of opportunity to work across the board in manufacturing.”