Keeping knowledge, building skills

If you are interested in finding out more about employing apprentices and the benefits they can bring to a business like Fairfield Control Systems, please complete the enquiry form. Alternatively you can call the National Apprenticeship Service on 08000 150 600.

Nottinghamshire-based, 24-strong Fairfield Control Systems is a specialist company that designs and builds control systems. It has been involved in iconic projects such as the Wimbledon Centre Court retractable roof and the Tower Bridge lifting system. There’s one other thing it has under control: making sure its skills and knowledge stay within the business.

Fairfield has doubled its size in the last three years and operations manager Keith Walker says that apprentices have played an important role in this success.

100 per cent retention

“We are a knowledge-based service provider,” he explains, “so it’s crucially important that the knowledge that is embodied within our employees stays in the company.”

It has a 100 per cent retention rate on that count: the eight apprentices that Fairfield has trained over the last ten years are still with the company.

Currently, the business offers Advanced and Higher Apprenticeships in Engineering Manufacture, Process Manufacturing, and Consumer Electrical and Electronic Products. The apprentices can gain a range of qualifications including Higher National Certificate (HNC), Higher National Diploma (HND) and Bachelor of Engineering (BEng).


“As a nation, we have a serious shortage of engineers,” says Walker. “This means that engineering graduates are in high demand across the industry. Graduates take 18 months to train and have a low retention rate within the business,” he explains.

“In the last six years, we have recruited eight engineering graduates but only four are still with the business.”

Structured training and evaluation

Fairfield’s structured training and evaluation programme is valued by its apprentices, who feel supported and are highly motivated.

The business develops a quantifiable set of measures for each apprentice, and an in-house engineer mentor provides on-the-job training and support.

 “As our apprentices progress, they increasingly work on real jobs and generate an income for the company,” Walker says.

“In return, they gain a high level of skills, experience and qualifications while earning a salary.”

One of Fairfield’s recent female apprentices has gone back to her school to encourage more girls to consider apprenticeships in engineering and, adds Walker, she was also featured by The Manufacturer  magazine in a showcase of UK manufacturing’s brightest female stars. “This was a huge accolade for us.”


Fairfield was named Small Employer of the Year 2013 in the National Apprenticeship Awards.

The National Apprenticeship Service supports the delivery of apprenticeships and traineeships in England. It offers free, impartial advice and support to employers looking to recruit for the first time or expand their programme.

For more information on the benefits of apprenticeships to your business complete the enquiry form to talk to someone at the National Apprenticeship Service.  Alternatively you can call the National Apprenticeship Service on free phone 08000 150 600.