The Thetford Partnership Action Group consists of Thetford Businesses, working collaboratively to support growth, promote work within the area and sharing of best practices. Julia Nix OBE and Service Leader for East Anglia Department for Work and Pensions is the chair.
At a meeting earlier this year the group had a presentation from Haas Automation, a manufacturer of CNC machines. Haas felt certain that someone with no previous CNC or Engineering experience could be trained as a setter and operator in a twelve week period to effectively operate one of their machines. The action group saw this as a positive challenge to see if this could be achieved. There is currently a shortage of skilled CNC operators across the industry both nationally and within the local industry. Julia, in partnership with West Suffolk College , Warren Services and Haas Automation, arranged to deliver a pilot program for four people who were who were seeking employment to train as CNC operators and setters. The only prerequisite was an interest in engineering.
The opportunity was advertised in Jobcentres across East Anglia. Jobseekers of varying backgrounds applied and eleven were carefully picked to go forward for the second part of the selection process. This consisted of a day with Warren Services based in Thetford and gave the potential candidates an opportunity to see how an engineering company functions, how the machinery is operated and programmed as well as the components produced.
The next stage was an assessment day with West Suffolk College where the applicants gained a full understanding of the course. They also took English and Maths assessments to ascertain if any support was needed during the program. No formal qualifications were required except the ability to read measurements, alongside the willingness and desire to learn.
From these assessments, the final four people were selected to take part in the training program and embarked on this amazing opportunity! They learnt the skills of a setter operator including CNC programming and setting, tool selection, material selection, cutting speed and feed calculations, as well as health and safety. All this is leading to well paid careers within the engineering industry. Importantly, the tutor has a strong industry background and was supported by another from Haas itself, ensuring the education is bespoke.
The training is nearing completion and all those who have completed the course have secured job offers having impressed West Suffolk College, the Department of Work and Pensions and Warren Services – who have offered employment with a start date of 2 January 2019. Richard Bridgman OBE, founder of Warren Services said he was ‘extremely excited that the Thetford Partnership Action Group have been able to work together to make this possibility a reality and offer Jobseekers real career options’.
Julia Nix said ‘It has been an innovative concept that has worked to give people a strong opportunity to get themselves into a really solid career, with excellent prospects’
The second tranche of selection is about to start, with the view of 6 students starting with West Suffolk College in January 2019, with more continuing throughout the year.