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British Rubber & Polyurethane Products Association

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New initiative on rubber industry training in the UK

Posted on 20 May 2016

For many years now the rubber manufacturing industry in the UK has suffered from the poor availability of technical courses which can be used for the career development of personnel coming into the industry. The demise of courses specialising in rubber technology at technical colleges and polytechnics such as Burton and Trowbridge, combined with a reduction in the size of the rubber industry, has resulted in no formal training protocol to follow apart from short courses.

The reasons why this should have happened are numerous, but it is clear that at the regional level any formal course run annually will struggle to achieve the requirements of the new intake. Clearly our industry no longer has the critical mass to support it. On the other hand it is also clear that across the country there is still a strong need within the industry for training to a common standard.

In an attempt to reverse this position as a matter of urgency, a group of like-minded industrialists, representative organisations and academics have formed a working party, Elastomer Training Action Group (ELTAG), with the intention of generating a range of courses with content that is to an approved quality and accreditation.

Ultimately there is a need to re-create a coherent learning pathway in rubber technology that will stretch from NVQ level  2 through to first degree and beyond. But this will take time and in the first place we need to concentrate our resources on the level at which there is the greatest need, building on what we already have.  At the same time we have to recognise two essential realities:

  • The industry is highly fragmented across the country and there is not the critical mass of demand to support courses simply serving needs at a local level.
  • The competitive pressures on successful companies, usually SMEs, are such that they cannot generally afford to release staff for training and education on a regular day release basis.

Currently there is only one formal full course on rubber technology being run in the UK. This is the level 3 BTEC course in rubber technology at South Leicestershire College. That course comprises 3 modules, each consisting of 60 days tuition, taught one day a week for two years.  It has a mix of students, some at apprentice level, others graduates who need to have their existing expertise topped up by a specific knowledge of rubber technology. It has been a highly successful course, attracting students from as far afield as Cornwall and Newcastle. Unfortunately enquiries show that there is not sufficient demand for it, in its current format, to continue beyond the current cohort of students who finish this summer.  We do however believe it will be possible to adapt the course, so that it is less disruptive to employers and can continue to provide a much needed service.

Our proposal is to set up a course on the following basis:

  • The current fully specified and accredited course should continue in its current format, consisting of modules on: basic polymer technology; rubber products and specialist elastomers; and rubber technology;
  • Tuition would be provided, on a block release basis consisting of separate week long sessions three times a year, for two years – a total of 6 weeks;
  • The course would be administered as at present by South Leicestershire College, who would continue to provide the necessary verification/testing service;
  • The tutor would be as for the current course (Mr Charanjit Chodha);
  • The course would be primarily lecture based but would include hands-on, practical tuition;
  • The start date would be Autumn 2016;
  • Students would range as at present from apprentices (level 3) or equivalent to others purely seeking the knowledge and know-how being taught;
  • Where students are in a formal apprenticeship programme the course would qualify as 30 units towards a wider apprenticeship (eg manufacturing, engineering or science) qualification run by a subscribing college, whether South Leicestershire or otherwise;
  • Location would be determined in the light of availability of suitable premises but to best meet the convenience of the employers concerned. Preferably it would be in a central location in England, but regional collectives of employers/attendees can be accommodated;
  • The cost per student has yet to be determined but would be in the region of £2000.

Some Government funding would be available for those within a formal apprenticeship programme in accordance with the terms and conditions applicable at the time.

We can only go ahead with this course if there is sufficient commitment from employers to avail themselves of it. To enable the course to operate a minimum of six participating students will be required. At present we are inviting firm expressions of interest. If you would be willing to commit in principle to this initiative, subject of course to the further development of the details, please respond by Friday, 3 June 2016 to:

John Dorken

Coordinator, ELTAG

British Rubber and Polyurethane Products Association (BRPPA)

e-mail:  jdorken@brppa.co.uk

If you have any questions or wish to discuss this proposal further please contact him via the above e-mail address or the BRPPA Office (theteam@brppa.co.uk), telephone: 01787 226 995; or please feel free to contact the course tutor, Charanjit Chodha, on charanjit.chodha@hotmail.co.uk.

ELTAG members

ARTIS

British Rubber and Polyurethane Products Association

Cogent Skills

Knowledge Transfer Network

Polymer Society of Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining

Polymer Recyclers Ltd

South Leicestershire College

Trelleborg

Tun Abdul Razak Research Centre