£18m aero apprentice centre plan in Doncaster to help skills soar

It is hoped airlines will one day send jets to Doncaster Sheffield Airport for maintenance. Picture: Chris Etchells
It is hoped airlines will one day send jets to Doncaster Sheffield Airport for maintenance. Picture: Chris Etchells

An £18 million aeronautics apprentice training centre at Doncaster Sheffield Airport could help land huge airline maintenance contracts, its backers say.

Plans are being drawn up for a new building with a hangar on a prime plot beside the runway which would train up to 100 apprentices from local companies.

AMRC Training Centre

AMRC Training Centre

It would be a ‘satellite’ of Sheffield University’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre in Rotherham, where youngsters would also study to further boost their skills.

And it is hoped a growing number of trained specialists in the borough would help land giant MRO – maintenance, repair and overhaul – contracts with airlines, which could create hundreds of skilled jobs.

The AMRC plans to apply for funding from the Local Enterprise Partnership and Government. It also has the backing of the airport and Doncaster Council.

An event for Doncaster engineering bosses – who would supply apprentices and pay for their training – has been held at the airport.

If everything goes to plan the centre could be open by September 2019.

Former business minister Richard Caborn is an AMRC ambassador.

He said: “It’s about lifting the skills base of the region and getting well-paid jobs. We have got a competitive economy and have attracted Rolls Royce, Boeing and McLaren into the region. An aeronautical apprentice training centre would give us a whole new dimension of skills in South Yorkshire and help us land big aviation MRO contracts.”

The scheme was devised after the airport narrowly missed out on a giant MRO contract with a global operator. A lack of local skills was cited as one reason.

Meanwhile, the Government’s recently-published Industrial Strategy placed a heavy emphasis on boosting skills to improve productivity.

Some 260 youngsters attend the over-subscribed AMRC Training Centre in Rotherham, 26 of them from eight Doncaster companies.

Aeronautical apprentices could also help maintain the retired Vulcan nuclear bomber which is based in a hangar adjacent to Doncaster Sheffield Airport.

They could also work on the Red Arrows if they relocate from Lincolnshire.

It is understood the display team’s base at RAF Scampton could close temporarily or permanently in coming years.

Keith Ridgway, executive dean AMRC, said: “It is vital to the continuing success of our region that we expand the expertise we have in advanced manufacturing and training across the whole of the region.

“Sheffield Doncaster airport is an international gateway into our region and is a key component in our emerging industrial strategy. There is huge potential here, not least for the training the next generation of aircraft engineers using advanced digital technologies such as augmented and virtual reality.

“With the support of the Sheffield City Region, Doncaster Council and Peel Holdings, we are putting together a plan that could see more than 100 young people training to be the maintenance, repair and operations engineers of the future. Our training centre in Rotherham already trains more than 60 apprentices from Doncaster and Barnsley, and many more are turned away because of capacity issues.

“We will bring the lessons learned from the AMRC Training Centre to this new project. It will also draw on the AMRC’s wider expertise in rapid manufacturing technologies such as 3D printing used to make parts and also to make patterns for casting.

“The centre will also benefit from the pioneering work we are doing in the digital domain with the development of techniques such as Augmented Worker where we can use advanced digital technologies and virtual reality to connect equipment experts anywhere in the world to an MRO facility in Doncaster.

“We see a major opportunity to advance the technologies around MRO and make a similar impact to that made around traditional manufacturing technologies.

“In addition to skills training, we will also be doing MRO related research at the facility. These skills and the research will be equally applicable in next generation road vehicles and trains such as HS2 and HS3.”