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A first-choice vendor to a global customer base supplying safety critical parts to the nuclear, petrochemical and aerospace markets – Swiftool Precision Engineering wants to be recognised as the UK’s foremost precision engineering provider and provider of innovative engineering machining solutions across the 21st century supply chain.

Based in Mansfield - an area of extremely low social mobility, educational attainment and economic growth – the company has found it ever more challenging to achieve those ambitions and is looking to provide innovative ways of fuelling talent to continue to provide services to the MOD's next generation nuclear defence programme.

The Swiftool team launched a plan to design, develop, deliver and sustain a strategic Future Talent Programme called ‘Tomorrow’s Engineers, Today’ - addressing both the short term skills needs of the company and also that of the wider engineering and manufacturing community locally.

Having the capability in-house to offer formal EAL-accredited qualifications without relying on third parties can reduce the time to qualification for staff, from four years to just 18 months in some cases - helping to ensure a ready-made pipeline of workplace-ready talent.

Executive Director Sam Handley said: “We have a target of a minimum of 10 per cent of our workforce coming from an apprenticeship route. They will go through an 18 to 24 month programme, and they will touch every part of the business in the first three months, ultimately specialising in what they want to do whether that's machining, quality, CAD or programming.

“We’ve been working alongside EAL now for probably the best part of the year. They have really helped us and it was imperative for us to get that link.

“Getting involved was a risk for EAL because not every small engineering company wakes up one day and goes “I'll tell you what, I'm gonna turn the business into its own college” with no experience whatsoever and nobody from an education establishment in sight but they have been fantastic.

“The results speak for themselves. Everything happens faster and with more flexibility but the quality is just as high if not higher. EAL move with the times and understand the needs of the industry.”

Swiftool Precision Engineering has supplied high integrity precision machined components, kits and precision machined assemblies to clients for over 40 years and is recognised as part of the ‘Next Generation’ programme for nuclear technology. The company’s continued growth is fuelled by strategic investment, continual improvement and innovation – as highlighted by its switch to a partnership with EAL.

Sam added: “As a result of teaming up with EAL we are now in a much stronger position to make a meaningful and quantifiable difference to the lives of young people, even if only on a very small scale.

“Becoming a registered centre was a key part to our strategic plan and without the endorsement from EAL we wouldn’t be able to keep a timely supply of talented engineers.

“Having the opportunity as an employer to deliver your own vocational training and qualifying and certifying is absolutely imperative to our future plans. We need to accelerate the time to qualification and attainment in the supply chain because skill is so short. Reducing how long it takes to reach vocational competence is absolutely essential.

“Partnering with agencies such as EAL who are capable of understanding the bigger picture is so important to us. We realise we need to make the industry more appealing to young people, it’s got to be interesting, it’s got to be real.

“Ultimately, if University is not an option for someone, or if they're not the type of person who wants to sit in a college, it's up to us to speed things up for them and help them exploit their earning potential

“We're trying to be really responsible and offer robust apprenticeships up to level three in technical engineering, targeting a select cohort of apprenticeship standards, which we know we've got the capability to deliver with passion, with confidence and with experience.

“Knowing that we've got the comfort blanket of working alongside an established organisations such as EAL, who are really easy to work with and understand the challenges of both the learners of today and also modern business is key.

“The way young people learn is very different than it was 10 or 15 years ago and EAL understands that, they move with the times and understand the need to deliver quickly and efficiently.”

Swiftool now employs 11 apprentices with another four joining in October 2022, taking the total to 15 - 13 per cent of the workforce. All of the most recent recruits hail from feeder sites within five miles of the plant.

In the past 12 months recruitment expenditure has been reduced by 30 per cent for technical skilled machining roles.

Sam added: “Our ‘Tomorrow's Engineers, Today’ strategy is fuelled by a deep-rooted personal ambition to challenge the status quo, promote diversity in our workplace, raise aspiration and create more engineering opportunities for young people.

“We have worked hard to repair the broken relationship with our local college, working strategically and collaboratively to strengthen external engineering educational curriculums and helping leaders in education understand what is really needed in industry.

“We now have employer representation on the local college skills board, actively contributing towards the college's staff development and have provided over 400 hours of work experience for their students this year. We have also facilitated skills workshops and work hand in glove to continually support wherever we can.

“We have been a National Cornerstone Employer since March 2022 with three Enterprise Advisors in our business who work strategically with two local schools. This has resulted in 45 meaningful career support interventions in recent months for disadvantaged young people.”