Composites UK calls for skills overhaul

With composite manufacture relying heavily on skilled individuals, the industry is making moves to standardise training and increase its workforce.

The composites industry relies on the specialist skills of its workers, and it has been well documented that the size of the workforce is not keeping up with the current growth in business, let alone the predicted growth figures for the industry. Young people are not choosing a career in the composites industry for a variety of reasons including a lack of teaching about composites across the education system coupled with misperceptions about skill recognition within the sector.

As the Trade Association for the UK composites industry, Composites UK is working with its members to develop a nationally recognised system of competency standards across the main processes used in composites manufacture through the Composites Assured Practitioner Scheme (CAP). The CAP scheme, currently in the pilot phase, has developed competency lists and assessment criteria for pre-preg, which are now being developed for the wet lay-up and resin infusion processes.

It’s important that companies understand the skill levels of their current employees so that the appropriate
training and guidance can be put in place where needed. Achieving CAP accreditation demonstrates the company is meeting a recognised level of operation, as the standards are compliant within audited schemes such as NADCAP, ISO standards and SC21. This in turn will assist UK companies in winning exciting projects by giving the customer increased confidence in the work quality.

The CAP scheme will be overseen by the British Composites Society to provide the link to professional institutes, and long-term will fit in with apprenticeship schemes and graduate programmes.

Individuals will develop their own ‘passport’ of competencies assessed against the guidelines, giving them a bronze, silver or gold rating in that skill. Sub-contractors will also be eligible to register for a passport enabling them to demonstrate expertise to potential employers with reassurance.

The scheme is currently in its pilot phase with AIM Composites, Aircelle and Combined Composites Technologies all taking part. Composites UK is looking for other companies to join the pilot in any of the three technologies being covered at this stage.

David Howell, quality assurance manager at AIM Composites says: “It provides the ability to standardise the skill levels of the nationally available workforce via the proposed Composites UK registration database, therefore giving the ability to check the competency of prospective employees. Operating alongside our internal training programme we know this will help us increase skill levels and consequently improve the quality and delivery of components to our customers.”

Composites UK

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