Bringing on the next generation of engineers to work across its many customer programmes is a key focus for Babcock International, the highly-skilled engineering company. No more so than in the current Year of Engineering, a UK wide initiative to encourage young people to consider a career in the sector, Babcock is ensuring that it creates the best environment and provides the right tools for its people to do the job. This is highlighted at its Bristol facilities, where it develops specialist systems and complex equipment from concept through design, manufacture, and assembly to installation. Here, investment has taken place in its production training facility, with input from XYZ Machine Tools.

The updated apprentice training area at Babcock with its eight XYZ Machines

This upgrade is part of an ongoing investment programme strengthening its manufacturing capabilities with the upgrade of its on-site apprentice training facilities seeing a mix of new manual and CNC machine tools being installed, as well as the latest in metrology equipment. The apprentice training centre currently has six first-year apprentices, out of a total of 30 on-site which is supplemented by two graduates on rotation from the wider business. In September the apprentice intake will increase to nine, all of whom will go through a rigorous selection process.

“We have traditionally taught skills on manual machine tools here on-site. A number of our senior management team are ex-apprentices and very much value the mechanical training that we deliver” says Babcock’s Apprentice Training Manager Tim Jacobs. “With the new first-year NVQ units containing CNC requirement the time was right to upgrade. The investment in the XYZ mills and lathes, along with the general make-over of the facility, means we are much better placed to deliver the training that we need. Prior to making this investment we undertook an extensive procurement exercise and decided that the package XYZ Machine Tools offered was ideal for our requirements.”

An apprentice operating the XYZ EMX Turret Mill

The investment saw an additional seven XYZ machines added to the training area, made up of a mix of manual and CNC machines, including a number of ProtoTRAK controlled turret mills and ProtoTRAK controlled lathes. Bringing in these machines has enabled Babcock to adapt its training as the technology adds greater flexibility and capability. Tim added: “We are now able to deliver the Performing Engineering Operations (PEO) NVQ 2 in the first year of training, after that apprentices and higher apprentices can focus on moving onto specific departmental roles in machining, fitting, assembly or project management.”

In addition to more traditional apprentice training, this facility also allows Babcock’s graduates to be spend time on the machines giving degree students an appreciation of manufacturing processes. The 12-week placement in the production training facility also provides an insight into applying manufacturing techniques.

One of three XYZ training lathes installed at Babcock

The XYZ ProtoTRAK control delivers on these requirements with its ease-of-use, making the transition from manual to CNC straightforward. The control teaches cutting cycles and cutter compensation. The ProtoTRAK mills are set up with just a two-axis option, with no powered Z-axis. This means that apprentices and graduates gain good experience in ‘feel’ when it comes to machining through the combination of manual and CNC operation.

Tim Jacobs with apprentice Joel Kirton on one of the XYZ training lathes

Tim Jacobs highlights the simplicity of the conversational programming systems. “The XYZ ProtoTRAK control is very straightforward to use and we always have the assurance that we can call on XYZ with any questions that we may have; be it on programming, or simply just getting the best out of the machines.” This is backed by the fact that every XYZ CNC machine comes with free training and a free programming helpline to assist with any ongoing questions that customers may have.