Major investment boosts apprentice training on the Isle of Man

 The development is a partnership between the Isle of Man Government’s Department for Economic Development and Department for Education of Children, along with the Isle of Man Aerospace Cluster (IOMAC), which comprises companies such as RLC Ronaldsway, Swagelok and Triumph Activation systems. The investment will enable a significant increase in the number of apprentices trained on the island, and also provide facilities to deliver advanced further education and training to those outside of apprenticeships.

The investment is spread over two sites in Douglas, the first being the Advanced Manufacturing Training Centre for apprentice training, with further education training being located at the refurbished William Kennish building on the main campus site. To meet the needs of students undergoing both basic training and more advanced learning, the college needed to be equipped with machine tools capable of delivering quality and performance. With the scale of the project the college had to put out to tender for the 38 machine tools it required, with the winning supplier being XYZ Machine Tools, which has now entered into an Educational Partnership agreement with the college.

“We needed a supplier that could provide a complete package of manual and CNC machine tools, as we need to develop traditional skills as well as more advanced training. As we already had experience of XYZ machines at the college, we were aware of the quality and ease of use of their equipment, but with this new package of machines we added CNC machines, along with suites of ProtoTRAK and Siemens software for offline training. The manual machines we purchased are perfect for the students with no experience, as they lay the foundations for basic machining principles. Then, during the students’ first year they can move on to the ProtoTRAK controlled lathes and mills, continuing their training on the CNC machining and turning centres in their second year,” says Brian Young, Isle of Man College’s Engineering Programme Manager.

The machine order consisted of seven XYZ SMX 2500 ProtoTRAK bedmills, five XYZ SLX 1630 ProTURN lathes, 12 XYZ 2000 manual mills and 11 XYZ 1330 manual lathes all with digital readouts, an XYZ 1020 surface grinder, with an XYZ CT52LTY turning centre with live tooling and Y-axis along with an XYZ 710 VMC vertical machining centre, with five-axis capability, completing the package. The 38 machine order, including the offline systems and software, is backed by XYZ Machine Tools Educational Partnership promise, which ensures that the college will receive free ongoing support in the form of training, to maintain the skill levels of the technicians and teaching staff. “Our experience within the education sector is second to none with over 200 universities, colleges and training establishments having XYZ machines in their workshops, many of which have entered into Educational Partnerships with us as they can see the long-term benefits of buying machines that will have extended service lives as well as the ongoing support we can provide,” says Kerry Kidd, XYZ’s Educational Sales Director.  

The ease of use of the ProtoTRAK control is central to this success within education, in particular the TRAKing facility that comes with it. This allows verification of a program by use of the handwheels, something that was particularly valuable to the Isle of Man College. “The TRAKing facility is a big plus for us as we can’t allow students to simply push a cycle start button and hope for the best, without verifying the program first. Therefore, TRAKing is an excellent learning tool and one that will have major benefits to us,” says Brian Young.

With the machines now installed the college is pro-actively promoting the courses that it teaches. Unusually, an apprenticeship on the Isle of Man consists of two years off-the-job training, which the apprentice is expected to fund himself, as they are not employed by any company at this stage. This leads to some innovative ways in which to generate income and also demonstrates a dedication to learning a lifelong skill. Two apprentices in the current intake work for the Island’s postal service getting up at five o’clock to do a shift, before coming to college. In spite of this increased commitment on the part of students, the college is seeing a dramatic increase in applicants, with 33 taken on this year. In comparison, at one stage there were just eight apprentices across the entire island, supporting an industry that employs over 3500 people.

The challenge now is to continue to increase the intake to meet the needs of the island’s engineering sector, which is estimated will lose upwards of 500 people through retirement in the next few years. The training provided by the Isle of Man College will take students to City & Guilds PEO (Performing Engineering Operations) level 2, BTEC level 3 diploma or City & Guilds level 2 in year one adding City & Guilds CNC level 2 in year two as well as continuation of college studies. In addition, industry partners are providing workplace skills during a half day per week placement.


These industry partners also had an influence on the machines that were purchased. “Our partners in IOMAC were pushing for more and more CNC training, so we had to reassure them that the machines we were buying met their needs, but at the same time we structured the machine package to suit the students’ needs. Before the order for the machines was signed members of IOMAC vetted our choice and gave it the thumbs up based on what they saw as the capability and quality of the XYZ machines,” says Brian Young.   

The seeds of the partnership between XYZ Machine Tools and Isle of Man College were planted long before any order was signed though, with local XYZ salesman Carl Tinsley and Kerry Kidd working closely with all of the stakeholders to ensure that the needs of the college, students, and industry partners were met. No detail was overlooked, for example XYZ brought its transport manager over to survey the two sites before delivery took place, this turned out to be an enlightened decision as access to the William Kennish building is challenging to say the least. As a result of this attention to detail the whole process ran smoothly from start to finish.

“XYZ’s success in the education sector is built on solid foundations of having a diverse range of machines capable of providing the development of skills needed by apprentices and those in further education. Our manual machine range provides the basic skills and understanding of machining principles, students can then move on to ProtoTRAK controlled machines that can be operated as manual, part CNC or as full CNC machines. Then as is the case with Isle of Man and other forward thinking colleges we have the machining centre and turning centre ranges that feature the Siemens conversational control. With our Education Partnership scheme, colleges are also reassured that their teaching staff will always be up to date with the latest training, which can take place at the college or at any of our showrooms around the country,” says Kerry Kidd.

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