Headquartered in Coventry, Impression Technologies is a world leader in light-weighting solutions for automotive, aerospace, and consumer product sectors. As a small business with highly niche roles, apprenticeships are an essential element of the organisation’s succession planning, an opportunity made more economically possible by support accessed through the MTC’s SME Support Service in partnership with Lloyds Bank.
We talked to Angie Mills-Cooper, Manager of Talent, Development and Well Being, about why MTC Training has restored her team’s faith in apprenticeship training, how an interactive approach and weekly feedback means her apprentices are better supported throughout their journey, and how MTC’s employer forums are benefitting the business.
When did you start working with MTC Training as your apprentice training provider?
We first started working with MTC Training two years ago, and they’ve restored our faith in the training provider system. Unfortunately, we had a very bad experience with another training provider so we came to the MTC to ask for help. The team went over and above our expectations – they didn’t just say what we wanted to hear, they were honest and realistic, which is exactly what we needed at the time. They helped us to pull our apprentices out of our previous training provider, sort out the funding with Ofsted, and then transfer them onto the MTC’s programmes.
One of the learners moved onto a different programme to fill in the remaining gaps in his knowledge, but the other apprentice had to start completely from scratch. We also recruited a new apprentice at the same time, and they’re both returning to site in September after completing their first year at the MTC Tr
Why apprenticeships / why are they important to your organisation?
Our company has seen the benefit of taking on fresh people and moulding them into our way of doing things. Succession planning is crucial here because some of our roles are very niche. This means it’s just not possible to recruit experienced people into them, you have to bring and train new people. We have 45 employees, and we’ve taken on five graduates in the last 12 months, so it’s a very up and coming team! The grads help the apprentices too, and we’re looking to introduce a reverse mentoring programme.
How has the Lloyds SME Support Service helped your business?
The MTC helped us access the Lloyds Levy Transfer Fund to cover the cost of training, as well as the Salary Support Scheme, which funds the first year of the apprentices’ salaries.
It’s a big help because I haven’t had to justify to my CFO paying an apprentice that we don’t see day-to-day in the first year. It’s also encouraging us to take on more apprentices, which is a much easier conversation with the levy transfer! As a small company, we're not levy payers, and so we wouldn't even be considering taking on another apprentice this year without Lloyds' support. The money we save on their salary, we invest in them and their equipment when they return to site.
What has your experience been like working with MTC Training?
Amazing! I wouldn’t call the MTC Training team colleagues, I’d call them friends. We have a really good relationship, and everyone is so friendly and helpful. What really blows me away are the weekly reports. We don’t just wave the learners off for a year – I know how they’re getting on week by week, which means we can celebrate and give kudos when they’ve done something great, and step in to provide support straight away if it’s been a less good week or they need some extra help.
In fact, I’ve talked about the MTC so much that there’s now a waiting list for people to come with me to the employer forums! The forums are such a great opportunity to network and make great connections, especially being a small organisation, and that’s not to mention the fantastic breakfasts!
We’ve also piggy-backed onto an MTC Training STEM event in a local school, which we found out about at the forum. We provided a stand with an activity and prize, and took one of our graduates with us to try to encourage more girls into STEM – it’s become part of her development too. We started a partnership with the school and hosted a trip from a group of students, so it’s helping us to fulfil our goals. You can get involved with as little or as much as you want.
What is the feedback from their managers and those who work closely with them?
Although they’re not back onsite full time yet, the apprentices do come back to us during return to industry weeks, and our more experienced apprentice pops in whenever he has a spare hour or two, rolls his sleeves up and just gets on with it. Everyone says how different the apprentices are since we changed training providers – they’re more mature, with that working ethos implanted, they turn up on time and in uniform, looking smart. As employers, we think everyone already knows how to do this, but when you’re brand new to industry you might need a bit of a steer in the right direction, and they get that with MTC Training.
What do they add to your business when they start with you after being trained at MTC?
Youth! I know apprentices aren’t always young, but ours are, and with that comes a level of enthusiasm. When you recruit more experienced people, they bring both good and bad experiences with them, whereas we can mould our apprentices to our ways of working. They also bring fresh eyes and know more than some of our more established staff because they have more experience with the latest equipment and technology through their time at the MTC. That really gives them a boost because they can see that they’re already giving something to the business.
What do you like most about the MTC programme?
It’s encouragingly interactive. We don’t just wave them off for a year – we’re encouraged to keep in touch, and we’re given appropriate, relevant and timely feedback that means we can really support them as they go to and from the training centre throughout their apprenticeship. We’ve previously used a day release model, but you don’t get that level of continuity because it’s very stop start, so we prefer the MTC’s full-time first year followed by block releases. Encouraging our managers that this is the way to go can be tricky, but the manager I’m working with now can clearly see the benefits having experienced the programme in action.
Why do you choose to continue to work with MTC?
Because of the high level of continued training – all the trainers are really good, and you know that the apprentices get a continually high level of training across all the different areas, day in day out. You know you’re going to get a good product when they come out of the other end.
MTC Training also goes above and beyond my expectations. The team want employers to be involved, they want our input and for us to tell them what we need. Yes, they’re our training provider, but they’re so much more than that to us – they’re a partner in our business.