James Hobday, Laura Carter, Ian Carter and Jack Summers of Impossible Creations with their award for Regional Small Employer of the Year 2014.
The awareness of apprenticeships has increased significantly in the last few years with over 150,000 employers offering them in the UK. They give young people the opportunity to work for a real employer, earn while they learn and more importantly gain valuable workplace skills.
Impossible Creations is an Essex based company offering custom scan, design and modelling services using rapid prototyping 3D technology. Founded by Ian Carter in 2008 the company has been offering apprenticeships to school leavers since 2011.
“We take school leavers and offer a week’s work experience where we assess them – whether they will fit in with the team and enjoy what we do,” explains Ian. “At the end of that we offer a four-year engineering apprenticeship. They work here in the office with us where we basically offer the automotive design process to any company or individual.”
Ian began his 30 year career in the automotive design industry with an apprenticeship at Ford. By the mid eighties he noticed a decrease in the amount of apprentices being taken on in the automotive industry and when the industry hit a low in 2008, set up Impossible Creations.
“By the mid eighties they had stopped offering traditional apprenticeships as such,” Ian recalls. “There’s been practically a 25 year gap with no apprentices coming through – so I wanted to fill that gap. The idea is to offer at least one a year, building up our own work force and building a dedicated team.”
As the demand for 3D printing and additive manufacturing processes continues to grow, it has never been more crucial for young people to be learning these skills which will be imperative for the future of design and manufacturing. In partnership with Prospects College, the company’s first apprentice was taken on after a sixth form tutor approached Ian about a particular student who is now going in to the final year of his apprenticeship.
“We are working with a few technology schools in the Essex area who submit the pupils they think are the most appropriate,” says Ian. “We bring them in, show them what we do and then if they’re interested we offer them the weeks work experience on a short list. Then if that all works out, the one person will get the apprenticeship. It would be nice to be able to do more but we’re not in a position to do that yet.”
Ian believes that training young people with these hands on skills is important. By training them alongside accomplished professionals and giving them the experience of working with their four 3D printing machines, Impossible Creations apprenticeship program gives them the ability to progress with a solid grounding in the industry.
“We insist that they stay for at least the four years and get at least a minimum of HNC,” says Ian. “When we have automotive projects come in we bring in experienced contract staff so as an apprentice, they’re working with guys who in our last project had over 300 years of experience. We do the design side and I insist they start at level 2 to work with materials at the bench where they’re filing, welding, milling and turning so they get that experience. Even though their qualifications allow them to start at level 3 at college I want them to go in at level 2 so they get a good grounding in working with materials. It’s no good designing something if you’ve got no idea how it’s going to be made.”
Just last week the company was recognised by the National Apprenticeships scheme and presented with an award for Small Employer of the Year 2014 in the South East Region. They will go on to the national finals in November.
Impossible Creations offers much more than just automotive design and the company has worked on various projects covering dental, jewellery and medical. This shows how rapidly the 3D printing industry has expanded into various areas and highlights the importance of giving young people practical experience in a modern manufacturing environment.
Ian adds: “Our aim is to bring on a minimum of one apprentice every year and as the business grows, we will increase the number of apprentices to as many as the company can afford.”
To find out more about apprenticeships, visit the Apprenticeships website here.