The launch of the new Xtrac Academy took place on Friday 4th March, and was officially opened by Laura Farris MP in front of an audience of VIP guests, the Xtrac team, and apprentices old and new.
The Xtrac Academy will serve as a dedicated space for practical and classroom-based learning at the respected automotive and motorsport transmission company, building on its rich history in the support and delivery of apprenticeship programmes.
In fact, Xtrac have supported apprentices since 1991, when they took on their first apprentice. In 2003 Xtrac took it one step further and began working in partnership with Newbury College to deliver an apprenticeship programme that welcomed apprentices on an annual basis.
Since then, many apprentices have stayed on to have long and successful careers with Xtrac, which include working on some of the world’s most prestigious motorsport programmes, and being part of the teams working on developing the next generation of high-performance hybrid and EV Hypercar transmissions.
During 2022, the academy will welcome the first cohort of apprentices to its newly built CAE classroom and adjoining practical workshop. The apprentices will experience working in up to 16 departments across the company, over the course of their 18-48 month education.
Warren Page is Xtrac’s Apprentice Manager, and advises City & Guilds on particular features that as an employer Xtrac believes are needed from an apprentice programme. He comments: “The benefit to both Xtrac and the new apprentices at Xtrac Academy is the breadth of learning and practical experience they will accrue during their time here.”
“Engineering increasingly demands a flexible, multi-skilled workforce, and that is what the Xtrac Academy is designed to support.”
Craig Higgins is an apprentice from Xtrac’s 2021 cohort, and is in the first year of his Level 3 Engineering Technician Apprenticeship, he explains: “It’s been a great few months so far – I have worked across three departments, but will complete 16 departments by the end of my apprenticeship here.
“What is different about Xtrac is that we’re placed across every department – not every department is obligatory to work in as part of the qualification, but Xtrac like us to get a rounded experience of the whole process, so we understand how each department works singularly, and as part of the whole company.”
Craig has been able to make use of the Academy’s dedicated workshop: “It’s already operational, and there’s always an instructor present – so I’ve been able to go in and practice on different machines. It’s really helpful because it gives apprentices flexibility and access to our own area which is brilliant.”
Winner of Xtrac’s prestigious Darren Huttel Apprentice of the Year award in 2020 and 2021, Faye Cooke, is approaching the end of her three-year apprenticeship at Xtrac, and has plans to continue building on her qualifications: “After I complete my apprenticeship, I’ll continue with my current two-year HNC qualification that I have started with Newbury College and then hopefully progress to my HND.
“Xtrac is an incredibly supportive environment to be in. The trainers at Xtrac are top notch and I have learnt so much, and am still learning.”
The Xtrac Academy will offer new apprentices a dedicated space to learn and practice, Faye says – something she feels is a real benefit to the qualification: “Having access to your own area and machinery is fantastic – and having a dedicated Academy means that there is a sense of camaraderie with your fellow apprentices. You’re all learning from the beginning, so it’s not scary – it’s really interesting and fun, too.”
The automotive and motorsport industry is in the midst of seismic change. With the advent of electrical vehicles, and the pace of advancements in the technology, the decarbonisation of transport is well underway. Xtrac already play a significant part in the evolution of the industry – and attracting a new and multi-skilled workforce is a vital component of its continued success.
Adrian Moore, Xtrac CEO, explains: “The global automotive industry is undergoing a once in a generation transformation as the automobile transitions from conventional petrol and diesel power, through hybrid to electric as the global transport system is decarbonised.”
“One of the fundamental technologies needed for this transition is the vehicle’s transmission system, and Xtrac’s highly skilled and capable people demonstrate agility and innovation time-after-time.”
Craig has his sights set on learning more about high-performance EV and hybrid cars, something that his apprenticeship will enable him to do at Xtrac.
Of his choice to do an apprenticeship, Craig explains: “It’s a perfect combination of practical learning, education, and a job. You are paid to learn, and you gain practical experience at a respected company while you do it. It’s so interesting and Xtrac have been really supportive.”
Faye agrees: “If you’re a practical learner, and are ready to get into the working environment then apprenticeships are ideal. Don’t worry about having no experience, that is what an apprenticeship is – it’s about learning and doing new things. Go for it!”