Case Study: An innovative approach to apprenticeships

Springhill Hospice Learners
Xtrac Limited

Xtrac, a world-leading manufacturer of transmission solutions for motorsports and the high-performance automotive industry, was facing a developing skills gap resulting from an ageing workforce in the automotive sector.

Year awarded 2021
Region Thatcham
Size 250-999 employees
Sector Manufacturing

What is important for us is making sure our apprentices have the skills and practical experience to spend time in the main production areas. They get eight weeks there, not just one or two. They don’t just come out of the academy and then get a shock about what the job entails. They get to know the practical side of the job and they grow with it
Warren Page, Apprentice Manager

Facing the skills gap

Xtrac responded with an apprenticeship programme in 2003 which is attracting young people into the industry, guaranteeing skilled workers for future production demand and fostering the longevity of the company.

Their response was timely, with global recognition of the importance of sustainability gaining ground, and the need for businesses to take sustainability seriously.

Following a Princess Royal Training Award in 2018, Xtrac has maintained and expanded the apprenticeship programme, further demonstrating its commitment to upskilling its workforce and creating a talent pipeline fit for the future.

Building a sustainable workforce

Xtrac’s apprenticeship programme has become well-established in the company and has continued to grow since 2018. A purpose-built apprentice academy, situated at the heart of the factory, has been created and higher education apprenticeships have been introduced, including a product design engineering degree apprenticeship.

A Level 2 apprenticeship programme was launched in 2019, providing opportunities within the company for 16-18-year-olds who have not performed well in their GCSEs.

The introduction of new apprenticeships has expanded the reach of the apprenticeship scheme and resulted in an apprentice retention rate of 75% after 5 years.


Witnessing benefits during Covid

The Covid pandemic emphasised the value of Xtrac’s apprenticeship approach for the company. “Covid was the ultimate test for us” Page explains. “When the chips are down, can those people do that job without any help, and it was a resounding yes. I think their performance really was a bit of a wow factor, it was fantastic to see.”

The enhanced performance of apprentices, attributed to the 16-month factory tour, meant that Covid absences were easily covered by skilful and proficient apprentices who were not fazed by different areas of the business, ensuring continued operation and production.

A supportive culture

By focusing on sustainability, Xtrac has not only demonstrated an approach to attracting and retaining a skilled future workforce, but they have also provided a supportive and caring environment, promoting employee well-being.

Through six-month reviews, parent information events and promotion of the manager-apprentice relationship, Xtrac showcases its dedication to supporting apprentices.

Xtrac’s approach cultivates an environment where apprentices can develop their skills and experience and be fully integrated into the company. As Page states: “We had a visit from the Mayor and they said ‘It’s like one big happy family’, and that really is how it feels: we are a family here”.

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