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All hands on deck

When its labour pool began to dry up, a Cornish shipyard, which builds luxury yachts, turned to further education to find a new generation of apprentices.

The resulting training programme, designed through a partnership between the shipyard and Cornwall College, won a Beacon award last year. Now it has been used as a model of good practice in the Learning and Skills Development Agency's new guide on how colleges can engage employers in education and training.

Cornwall College set up a four-year modern apprenticeship programme tailor-made to the needs Pendennis Shipyard (pictured) in Falmouth docks.

The shipyard takes on a dozen apprentices every two years with training designed to fit in with the day-to-day work of the shipyard. After spending a month getting to know the shipyard, trainees undergo a rigorous year at college, studying engineering before specialising in trades including marine engineering, fabrication welding, and furniture manufacture. "We decided early on that every apprentice needed to have experience of all the trades in the yard as we take people on with a view to them becoming supervisors," said Jill Carr of Pendennis. "It's a testing course."

The first batch of apprentices graduated last year. One, who became an electrician, is a mentor for younger apprentices. Another has acted as the company's representative on one of its yachts in Croatia. A third is being sponsored by the firm to study three-dimensional design at Exeter University.

The awards cited the programme as "an outstanding example of a response to a local skills shortage and an ageing workforce".

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