A new degree apprenticeship will help open-up opportunities for trainees in materials science across the UK.
After two years in development, the Materials Science Technologist (Level 6) Degree Apprenticeship is now approved and ready for delivery.
The national programme, which provides a bachelor's degree qualification and extensive workplace experience, has been approved by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education and is now available to all students, universities and employers.
The Applied Materials Research, Innovation and Commercialisation Company (AMRICC) has led more than 40 employer-members of a Trailblazer Group, including Cape, Steelite International, Johnson Tiles and Wade Ceramics, who have worked together to design the qualification and bring the scheme together.
It is being supported by Staffordshire University, Sheffield Hallam, Queen Mary University of London, the University of Birmingham and the University of Derby.
The apprenticeship can be customised to meet the materials needs of specific companies or sectors to include a range of materials such as metals, ceramics and advanced ceramics, glass, polymers, rubbers and composites, as well as new and novel materials that will help to futureproof advanced manufacturing.
Paul Farmer OBE, managing director of Wade Ceramics – based in Stoke-on-Trent – said: "I think this is an excellent opportunity for the industry to put back in place some long overdue technical training, as this has been neglected for too long.
"The apprenticeship will encourage young people to come into ceramics, which offers a good future, especially in the technical field."
James Kent (Ceramic Materials), based in Stoke-on-Trent, has also been a key supporter of the apprenticeship.
Simon Nash, the company's managing director, said: "We have had to completely reinvent ourselves over the past 20 years, going from pottery material suppliers to specialist glass and pigment manufacturers.
"During this time, it has become increasingly difficult to find people with the right qualifications to enable them to fit into our organisation quickly and effectively.
"By giving students a good grounding in ceramic technology the apprenticeship programme can help new talent to quickly succeed in and make a worthwhile contribution."
Dr Cathryn Hickey, chief executive of AMRICC, a subsidiary of the Lucideon Group, based in Stoke-on-Trent, said: "Material science and engineering have a hugely significant role to play in the economy of the future.
"We are excited to see the programme take shape.
"It's good news for prospective apprentices, academics and businesses in a wide range of sectors and industries across the UK.
"Ultimately, this apprenticeship will provide students with the skills, knowledge and competency to deliver tangible benefits to individual companies and play a part in supporting the UK economy overall with significant advances in productivity, performance, innovation and reducing environmental impact.
"We can look forward to these apprentices increasing the competitiveness and technical competence of UK Plc here and in international markets."
Dr Chris Stevens, of NGF Europe Limited, is chair of the Trailblazer Group. He said: “The apprenticeship standard is a great new opportunity, but it is only the beginning.
"Education providers now need to choose to offer the course, and then companies need to employ apprentices to go on the programme.
"By understanding the science of materials and advanced manufacturing, new products will be better, problem solving more effective and production efficiency increased."
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