A SHEFFIELD wire manufacturer boasting a three decade staff retention record has turned to apprenticeships to replace skills lost with a retiring workforce.

Fox Wire in Stocksbridge recently took on its first apprentice since 2012, working with specialist awarding organisation EAL and Enginuity Apprenticeship Service to develop a training programme to foster a future generation of engineers.

The 150 year old company, the UK’s largest stainless steel wire manufacturer, currently has 51 employees with an average career spanning 27 years.

“We have three employees who have been with the company over 40 years!” said Shaun Stancliffe, Fox Wire’s operations director, who is responsible for modernising the business and recruiting new talent.

“It is a fantastic asset to have such a loyal workforce but with many set to retire in the next five years we needed not just a backup plan but also something which helps the business continually improve.

“Bringing apprentices into the business adds real value. They buy in to what we are trying to achieve and can be moulded into how we want the company to be. They bring a fresh and energetic approach.”

Fox Wire has been working with EAL, the specialist awarding organisation for industry qualifications, to establish apprenticeships that attract new talent, meet their skills requirements and are eligible for government support.

The Apprenticeship Grant for Employers (AGE) scheme provides £1,500 grants for companies with less than 1,000 employees who take on an apprentice aged 16-24.

Shaun said: “The support we’ve received from Enginuity and EAL has given us one of the main reasons for taking on apprentices. Our apprenticeship programme sees the apprentices spend a certain amount of time in each department learning all aspects of the business.

“They have been absolutely fantastic, not just with the important skills needed to do the job but also the softer skills like time-keeping and appearance. That is the sort of flexibility we need.”

19-year-old George Moore left Kirk Balk Community College in Barnsley to join Fox Wire as an apprentice, recently finishing runner up in the craft skills category of the Apprentice of the Year Awards.

He said: “Throughout my apprenticeship I have learnt a vast amount about work life, the wire industry and myself as a person. I feel that I have matured massively.  My apprenticeship has changed me from a boy at school to a man at work.”

He added: “My advice to anyone considering taking part in an apprenticeship would simply be: go for it.  If you have a willingness to learn and a keen interest in your job, your tutor will take an interest in you and lead you to a successful and prosperous career opportunity.”

Julia Chippendale, Managing Director of EAL, said: “It is fantastic to see such a highly respected company steeped in manufacturing history like Fox Wire embrace the need to keep the skills pipeline flowing.

“They have an outstanding apprenticeship programme, demonstrating just how relevant and flexible the vocational pathway is. Programmes really can be tailored to suit each employer’s requirements.”

To find out more about apprenticeships contact Enginuity Apprenticeship Service on 0845 643 9001, email customerservices@enginuity.org or visit enginuity.org.

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