For Teesside-based chemical manufacturer Lucite International UK Ltd, apprenticeships are crucial for having a workforce with the right skills. This is one of the reasons why it is a keen advocate of the new Trailblazer programme and has played an active role in the development of the new apprentice standard as part of the national Trailblazer team and by running a pilot with six apprentices.

Jessica Bell, Lucite International’s Learning and Development Manager, says: “We saw Trailblazers as an opportunity to change the landscape of apprenticeships. They will create a better-focused route into the science industry and align more closely to specific job roles. I have no doubt that they will encourage more people to enter the sector.”

The adoption of Trailblazers by Lucite is part of its firm belief in apprenticeships. About 10 years ago it identified a potential skills shortage as a result of which greater emphasis was placed on the apprenticeship programme which is unique in that it recruits ex-services personnel as well as school leavers.

Jessica says: “From a practical viewpoint the ex-armed forces personnel come with an established work ethic, an appreciation of the importance of maintaining safety & quality standards and a willingness to learn new skills which benefits our business. It also helps to balance our age demographic as they are mainly in their late 20s or early 30s which provides a useful bridge between our younger apprentices and the more experienced employees in their 40s and 50s.

Faith Hambley, Learning & Development Officer who has been active in the Trailblazers project for the Science Industry Technicians, says: “The structure of Trailblazers learning means that, once complete, individuals can be working effectively in their chosen specialism within weeks. In our case this will be either as a Production Technician or an Electrical and Instrumentation Technician.

“With previous apprenticeships it could take a several months after completion to become a meaningful member of the team as they needed to undertake additional training to be job-ready. Now, apprentices will be more prepared for the transition into a formal job role as they will have a much greater understanding and the skills to fulfil the role.”

Lucite’s piloting of the Trailblazer has been beneficial. Faith says: “We have been able, with our training provider, to work in partnership to develop a programme to better meet our needs.

Jess continues “At the regular meetings of the Trailblazers group we have all shared our experiences with each other, which has enhanced the overall programme development and means that everything is practical, applicable and easy to use. This approach has worked really well and reflects the collaborative approach we already have within the Teesside area to develop the right skills for the industry.”

The Trailblazer programme now recognises the importance of softer skills and their contribution to job and personal effectiveness In September, Lucite will be starting five more apprentices on the new Trailblazer Apprenticeship Standard and anticipates an equally successful and rewarding journey.