In order to cultivate young technology-motivated talent, Cambridgeshire-based contract manufacturer Prima Electronic Services has established a multi-faceted apprentice program. Working in conjunction with Cambridge Regional College, this program is designed to give participants a solid foundation in manufacturing-based engineering.

The initial apprentice intake at Prima’s St Ives plant began back in January, with additional trainees starting a few months earlier. Splitting their time between the college (1 day a week) and the production site (4 days a week), they are all due to complete their respective programs in the mid 2022 timeframe.

To give them a taste of various different engineering disciplines, the Prima recruits spend consecutive 4-month periods working in a range of departments within the company. The objective of this is to give them an overview of all aspects of manufacturing, and allow them to decide which particular area they might want to eventually specialise in. During these periods they get to carry out functional testing, mechanical assembly, fault finding and debugging, as well as learning how to operate surface-mount placement machinery and to interpret data from AOI/machine vision inspection systems. In addition, they will also get involved, to some extent, with improving processes to boost operational efficiency and assist in product development activities.

Over the course of the training program there are also planned visits to other manufacturing facilities and customers’ premises – thereby exposing them to different working environments and business practices. Another important aspect is that Prima apprentices are given projects that will challenge them and help to build their confidence. Each is given an engineering project, as part of their college education, but on top of that they also have the opportunity to take ownership of a particular part of an ongoing customer-led project at the plant. 

By the time the Prima apprentices finish the program, they will have gained a Level 3 qualification in Electrical & Electronic Engineering. Following on from that, there is also the potential for them to take a HNC in this subject. 

Having started his career as a Prima apprentice, Charlie Colbert is now the company’s Engineering Services Manager. In his view; “This is a great route through which school leavers can progress into becoming well-rounded manufacturing technicians, and kick-start their long-term professional development. “Among the essential skills they will pick up are working as part of a team, problem solving and keeping to deadlines,” he continues. “Following on from this, there is even the possibility of the company funding certain candidates to continue their studies at university.”