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New casting apprenticeship resurrect traditional Black Country engineering skills

A plea from local engineering companies to reintroduce training in one of the oldest metalwork techniques in the world has prompted Dudley College, to launch a new apprenticeship in casting, which sees the first apprentices in more than 20 years begin their training in this complex, but essential engineering skill.

To celebrate the introduction of the new Casting Apprenticeship during National Apprenticeship Week, Ian Austin, MP visited Thomas Dudley Ltd on Friday 15 March at 1.00pm to meet one of the first apprentices undertaking the training.  

Ian Austin explained "I want to see every youngster in Dudley in full-time education or proper training and I want to see more young people doing apprenticeships at world class local companies like Thomas Dudley."

"At a time when almost a million young people are unemployed, it's great to see local youngsters being given the chance to develop the skills needed to take the high-tech, highly-skilled jobs of the future."

This latest apprenticeship was developed in conjunction with Thomas Dudley, Charter Castings, Boro Foundry Ltd, Castings Plc, JJ Siddons and the Institute of Cast Metal Engineers (ICME) to ensure that training in this skill is resurrected. With an initial cohort of nine apprentices, all employed by the engineering companies within the partnership, there is already a growing interest in the training programme from other manufacturers across the Black Country.

"All of the employers in the partnership were failing to recruit individuals with the casting skills their businesses required," explained Lowell Williams, Principal at Dudley College, "Ther's a misconception that the engineering sector is decreasing in size, and this is contributing to a massive skills shortage, especially in the area of casting, as no training is available regionally to address this problem.

"The impetus to develop a casting apprenticeship for young people has been driven by the successful partnership we've developed with these forward-thinking local employers and the ICME. By working together we've designed a 2-year apprenticeship which combines classroom theory, online learning and traditional skills taught on the shop floor by industry experts from ICME."

Dr Pam Murrell, Chief Executive of ICME, explained: "Casting is one of the oldest metalworking techniques in the world and continues to be utilised today in a broad range of industries, but with an aging workforce in the engineering sector, and little formal training in casting available to train new employees, the skills gap was fast becoming an urgent matter to address.

We are extremely proud to have developed the apprenticeship programme in conjunction with Dudley College and this established group of engineering companies. Between us, we have ensured that casting in the UK has a bright future and can continue to develop and innovate with a formal programme of training in place to provide the skills the casting sector needs to continue as one of the best in the world."

The apprentices began their real 'hands-on' casting training at Thomas Dudley Ltd, where they accessed a range of specialist casting equipment and were taken through the process of pattern making, design for casting, sand moulding and core making.

Martin Dudley, MD at Thomas Dudley said: (quote needs approval "Casting is an integral part of the manufacturing process and so it is essential we secure a pipeline of skilled employees to meet the growing need for casting engineers within the Black Country and further afield.

The apprenticeship is unique in as much as the apprentices will using the college for generic training and then visiting all the employers' facilities to learn this complex technique. This way of working has come about
through the strong partnership that has been developed between the ICME, Dudley College and the local foundries, and I am confident that it will give us a competitive advantage as time progresses as we will have the skills in place to attract new business and secure contracts."

Metal casting is a metalworking technique in which molten metal is poured into a mould and allowed to set before being removed to reveal a metal piece which can be finished with grinding, sanding, and polishing before being sold. Applications for castings include the automotive, aerospace, nuclear industry, wind energy, pumps and values, telecommunications and many more.