Culham: F1 boss Ross Brawn opens apprentice training centre

An apprentice training centre capable of teaching up to 350 young people a year at UKAEA’s site at Culham near Abingdon has been officially opened by Formula 1 boss Ross Brawn.

The Oxfordshire Advanced Skills (OAS) facility at Culham Science Centre is a partnership between the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) and the Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC). It aims to increase the number of trained technicians and engineers for local employers. This is in part to plug the gap for high value skills in the local economy.

Ross Brawn – who was an UKAEA apprentice at Harwell in the 1970s – has enjoyed a successful career in motorsport including at Benetton and Ferrari. He is now Formula 1 managing director.

He said: “I am truly delighted to be present at the opening of Oxfordshire Advanced Skills, and the place where it all began for me as a young apprentice at the UK Atomic Energy Authority.

“My time here provided me with the skills and experience I needed to go out into the wider engineering world, and it laid the foundation for the career path I have pursued.

“Apprentices are our next generation of designers, engineers and global problem solvers, and the importance of advanced skills training in the modern world – alongside facilities like the OAS – has never been so important.”

OAS Phase 1 has been operational and training apprentices for three years in an existing facility at Culham. The new OAS building (OAS Phase 2) can accommodate many more apprentices, with industry-standard equipment covering a wide range of engineering and technology disciplines.

David Martin, OAS director, and a former Harwell apprentice, said: “My journey with the OAS started in 2011. Having the light bulb moment was the easy part but getting the funding was more difficult.

“The vision was an employer led skills hub that would provide high quality training contextualised by being delivered in the workplace, but OAS is so much more than that. We have created something very special here that has the potential to impact careers and business performance for decades to come.”

Apprentice training at the new OAS centre is provided by the MTC’s Advanced Manufacturing Training Centre (AMTC). AMTC is a state-of-the-art training centre based next to the Manufacturing Technology Centre near Coventry. It has an impressive track record in teaching not only core engineering skills but also the latest advanced manufacturing techniques being used in industry.

Paul Rowlett, managing director of the Advanced Manufacturing Training Centre, said: “We are delighted to be working with UKAEA and STFC to deliver the Oxfordshire Advanced Skills training programme. There is a clear synergy and shared vision across our organisations.”

Employers sending their apprentices to OAS include Veolia Oxford Technologies, Oxford University, Diamond Light Source, Williams Advanced Engineering, Abbott, and Satellite Applications Catapult.

The next phase of OAS is already being planned. As well as extending the facility at Culham to cover robotics and power engineering training, OAS will add a skills centre at Harwell Campus for apprentices in the space sector as part of the rapidly growing Space Cluster there.