Case studies

Alcoa Power & Propulsion

Thanks to the success of its award-winning apprenticeships, 85% of Alcoa employees believe their company has an outstanding future.

Exeter-based Alcoa Power & Propulsion makes products used in jet engines and industrial gas turbines. Alcoa decided to re-launch its apprenticeship offering in 2011.

Developing a pool of talent

“The recession has seen a decline in the number of engineers and technical staff relocating to the South West,” says Senior HR Adviser Lisa Ives. “We realised that apprenticeships would allow us to develop our own talent pool to fill skills shortages. We decided to move away from more traditional apprentice frameworks like maintenance towards more skilled, technical roles.”

The company, which has over 500 staff in Exeter, currently has 17 apprentices working towards intermediate and advanced apprenticeships in Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies. Apprentices study at Exeter College of Further Education as well as learning on the job with support from global specialists in aerospace technology.

“Our apprentices are incredibly engaged,” says Lisa, who is an Apprentice Ambassador for the National Apprenticeship Service. “They have a great sense of team work and co-operation, are flexible and embrace change and new technology, which ultimately leads to greater productivity and improved quality.”

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Engagement scores soar

Apprenticeships have transformed the way staff feel about the company. “In our 2013 Employee Engagement survey, agreement with the statement: “I believe Alcoa has an outstanding future” rose from 51% to 81%. Employees told us the recruitment of apprentices was pivotal to this because it proved that the company was investing in new talent and future skills.”

The company’s profile has been boosted externally too. In their role as STEM ambassadors, apprentices go into schools to promote science, technology, engineering and maths and to share experiences of working at Alcoa. “This has enhanced our reputation,” says Lisa. “We now have an average of 22 applications per apprentice vacancy.”

Tackling the gender imbalance

In 2013, Alcoa won the top prize at the CIPD People Management Awards, with apprenticeships key to its winning strategy. Now, having just been crowned Large Employer of the Year in the South West  region at the National Apprentice Awards 2014, Alcoa is setting its sights on getting more women into engineering and is planning female only open days.

The company has aspirations for apprentices regionally too. Working with other companies and learning providers, it is developing an East Devon manufacturing apprentice programme, which it hopes will be launched in September 2015.

To find out more about the business benefits of apprenticeships, please contact the National Apprenticeship Service on 08000 150 600.