Learning to laminate is given top priority at BAE

Kevin Relf, in white, has been training former apprentices, from left, Sam Young, Sam McFarlane and Ed Poole-McKenzie in the art of laminating 	           PICTURE Phil Stanton for BAE
Kevin Relf, in white, has been training former apprentices, from left, Sam Young, Sam McFarlane and Ed Poole-McKenzie in the art of laminating PICTURE Phil Stanton for BAE

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THE traditional and highly-skilled art of laminating in shipbuilding is being safeguarded by BAE Systems, in Portsmouth’s naval base.

Two of the company’s most experienced laminators have been trained as NVQ assessors to enable them to hand down their skills and inject a fresh lease of life into the craft.

Laminating is core to the manufacture of the high-speed rigid inflatable boats produced by BAE Systems at Portsmouth Naval Base.

It’s also used in the manufacture and maintenance of larger Royal Navy ships, including Hunt Class mine countermeasure vessels.

The technique involves applying multiple layers of composite under pressure or heat, to produce a material which is light, strong and stable.

The same method is used in the manufacture of Formula One racing cars and high performance aircraft.

NVQ Level 3 training, equivalent to an A-level, is now being given to three trainees by in-house experts Kevin Relf and Barry Grant, who have a wealth of experience.

Composites team leader Barry has been a laminator for 42 years and his colleague Kevin used to run a laminating school at Portchester.

‘I’ll be retiring in a couple of years so it’s great to be able to pass on my knowledge before I go,’ said Barry.

‘The model that we use for training has come primarily from implementing suggestions from our apprentices themselves, which has increased the interest and kept the training relevant.’

The first trainees were shipwrights and former apprentices Ed Poole-McKenzie, Sam Young and Sam McFarlane.

‘We’re getting the hang of it now, learning alongside the skilled laminators and gathering their experience and knowledge,’ said Sam Young.

And Ed added: ‘It’s been quite a steep learning curve but we’re now able to do everything that the experienced laminators do.’

The laminating NVQ option has also been added to the Advanced Apprenticeship in Marine Engineering in addition to fabrication, welding, mechanical and electrical qualifications.