WEC Group, one of the UK’s largest contract manufacturing and fabrication companies, has revealed today that it has successfully joined the Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers (RoATP) as an Employer Provider.

This achievement recognises WEC Group’s long-term commitment to ‘Developing the next generation of World Class Engineers’ and bridge the Engineering Skills Gap.

RoATP is a government record of organisations eligible to receive funding to train apprentices.  Being on the register will enable WEC Group to deliver the Level 3 Plate Welder Standard internally to the highest standards, without having to rely on local colleges or third-party training providers.

WEC Group’s successful RoATP application marks the culmination of 3 years of extremely hard work from WEC’s engineering teachers, and apprentices to build a 25,000ft² state-of-the-art Training Academy in Blackburn. As part of this process, the WEC leadership team worked ceaselessly to improve their internal policies, procedures, and learning materials to meet the high standards of the Register. Meanwhile, WEC has also invested heavily to acquire a state-of-the Art VR welding simulator from Lincoln Electric, which has enabled the company to provide an enhanced classroom learning experience for the benefit of their apprentices.    

Steve Hartley, Managing Director of WEC Group, and Head of the Board of Governors at WEC Engineering Academy said: “We are really thrilled to be joining RoATP as an Employer Provider. This is a testament to our commitment to providing individuals across the country with the skills and training they need to carve out successful careers in engineering. We are also proud to be playing a key role in the ongoing battle to tackle the skills gap which plagues our industry.”

In 2006 WEC Group’s MD, Steve Hartley, recognised that there was a major skill shortage within the high-end fabrication industry which was affecting the growth of the organisation. Mr Hartley decided to invest in setting up an in-house Training Academy designed specifically to offer apprenticeships in Welding and Fabrication in order to future proof the business.

The WEC Engineering Academy’s core objective is to provide WEC apprentices with hands-on training and real-world experience, which prepares them for very successful careers in the engineering industry. Apprentices who complete the Academy’s apprenticeship scheme are guaranteed a long-term position with WEC Group on completion of the course.

Over 200 apprentices have now come through the doors of the WEC Academy since 2006 alongside support from local training providers, which has enabled the business to treble their workforce and increase their revenue tenfold in that period. On the back of this success, WEC unveiled plans in 2019 to start the build of the new modern premises in a move aimed at doubling their annual intake of apprentices and bring the classroom element of their apprenticeship programme in-house for the benefit of their Apprentices.

The build was funded through a £3 million private investment from Mr Hartley and WEC apprentices fabricated all the steelwork for their new academy and contributed heavily to the overall build.

The new facility officially opened its doors in September 2022 and has since been hailed by many industry professionals, as the best Welding Academy in the country. This has in turn encouraged WEC Group to start their journey to join RoATP as an Employer Provider to fulfil their ambitions.

WEC Group’s Apprenticeship scheme has long been recognised as one of the country’s best and the company was granted the title of “Large Employer of the Year” for the North West 6 times in the past 8 years at the Department of Education’s National Apprenticeship Awards annual ceremony.

The company also recently won the “Investment in Future Skills” at the Blackburn with Darwen Hive Business Awards, as well as the “Commitment to Skills Award” at the prestigious Red Rose Awards ceremony in Blackpool last month.

The quality of WEC Group’s apprenticeship programme was further highlighted in November last year when one of the company’s rising stars, welding & fabrication apprentice Kieran McShane, represented the UK at the international WorldSkills competition in Cleveland, Ohio, and was officially recognised as one of the top 10 apprentice welders in the World.

Kris Mercer, WEC Engineering Academy Manager and Master Welding Instructor added: “Our Engineering Academy currently supports the delivery of one of the most successful apprenticeship programs in the country and we are extremely proud of all the work that has gone into making this a success. Joining RoATP as an Employer provider will now allow us to take the reins and provide a better learning experience for our apprentices. It is the start of a new chapter in our journey, and this will now lay the groundwork for future growth and expansion. As an Employer Provider we now have access to a large network of other apprenticeship providers with whom we can share best practices and learn from.”

WEC Group have recently unveiled their vision for the next 10 years and pledged to train a further 400 apprentices through their new academy, offering more opportunities to local individuals who are looking to start successful careers within engineering. Plans have also been drawn to upskill over 200 local job seekers or unskilled workers and introduce 1000 additional students to the world of engineering through hosting regular school visits and open evenings.

WEC Group are currently recruiting apprentices for their September 2023 intake, with a variety of apprenticeship opportunities in all areas of the business, available across the various divisions of the company.

For more information about WEC Group’s Welding & Engineering Academy, visit the WEC Group Engineering Academy page.

WEC Group