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Apprentices and Trainees

Apprenticeship documents pic
Indenture and training documents

Along with other large engineering companies in the post-war boom years, Associated Motor Cycles Ltd ran an apprenticeship / trainee scheme that, due to its unrivalled in-house manufacturing facility, offered school-leavers a chance to gain worthwhile experience in several different trades.

Not only did the scheme allow AMC to maintain it's own skill base, but it helped to cross-fertilise similar firms in the same sphere of work with a supply of young qualified staff.

Being accepted to work in a firm producing high-powered motor cycles gave great kudos to a teenage lad, but this quickly wore off when he realised that his meagre take-home pay on a Friday (after deductions for Mum and petrol) didn't leave much for a round at the pub with his higher-earning ex-school mates.

The apprentice intake took place each September, usually four in number, and they would have signed an agreement to remain with the company for a five year term.

During this time, each would spend time in the main departments for periods ranging from two months to a year, with one day a week college release provided to hopefully achieve Ordinary and Higher National Certification (or equivalent).

Barry Rennick in Grinding Bay pic
Barry Rennick in Grinding Bay
Chris Grace in Heat Treatment Shop pic
Chris Grace in Heat Treatment
Dennis Boney in Milling Bay pic
Dennis Boney in Milling Bay
Dennis Boney

The core factory workshops that all apprentices would take turns working in were: Drilling, Milling, Grinding, Capstans, Gearcutting, Heat Treatment, Inspection and Assembly.

Assuming adequate progress was made in these areas, There was also the opportunity to spend time in some of the other, more technically demanding areas of the firm, such as the Race Shop, Tool Room and Metallurgy Department.

Time in some areas, such as the Finishing and Welding shops, was not included in the training scheme on the grounds of safety, although, in the case of the Finishing Department, the true reason might have been to curb the desire to have the most highly polished, plated and painted bike in the firm!!

[However, a resorceful apprentice would always have cultivated a collection of useful contacts during his placements throughout the firm which, when the need arose, could be relied on to help out. Bob Cakebread relates the workings of this fine tradition in his story One Piece at a Time.]

After the first four years of gaining experience of the working practices throughout the firm, both the management and the apprentice would have a fair idea of the most suitable department for eventual specialisation.

The final year of the apprenticeship would then be spent in this chosen area, working alongside its staff and learning from them all that is needed to carry out the work involved, to an increasing level of competence.

Les Apps (apprentice) with office manager pic
Drawing office chief Tony Denniss (L) discussing
a design point with apprentice Les Apps (R)

For many, this final year would be spent in the Tool Room where they would be taught how to produce the accurate jigs, fixtures and gauges needed throughout the firm, whilst others would learn how to design these components and plan for their use in the Tool Design Office.

A high proportion of apprentices would end their training in the Drawing Office, where their previous years' workshop experience would prove to be invaluable. They would have the practical knowledge behind them to enable the design of components that were not only functional, but also fitted in with the invariably specialised production methods used throughout the factory.

Apprentices with bike pic
Some apprentices with their annual awards (c.1967)
(hover cursor over faces to identify and click here
to read the full article on on this prizegiving).
Michael Bonner John Foster Alan Puplett Chris Grace Les Apps Bob Cakebread

As well as end of year reports from the college, each department manager at the firm was required to give comments on his apprentice's performance to the personnel manager, and these reports were used by the management in deciding the awards for practical and academic achievement, handed out at a special ceremony attended by parents each December.

From time to time trips would also be arranged to take groups of apprentices to other firms in the area, such as the Woolwich Arsenal, Ford Motors in Dagenham, and the Stones foundry in Charlton (where the aluminium castings for AMC were produced).

These specially arranged visits comprised guided tours of the companies, giving the chance to see how work in other fields of engineering was set up and operated.

The foundry visit was especially valuable to the AMC apprentices as this important, and interesting, activity was one of the few that was not carried out in-house at Plumstead.

In tandem with the apprenticeship scheme, trainees (or craft apprentices) were also taken on to serve a three year term, with more emphasis on achieving proficiency in the manual skills needed in specialist departments such as the tool room.

Some of the above pictures are taken from an article on the AMC apprentice scheme, entitled 'Making Motorcycles', that was published by the Motor Cycle newspaper in their 1966 special First Gear supplement.

Click button for more 'out of overalls' apprentice pictures.

James Akers
Les Apps1962 - 67Remained in Drawing Office to 1969
Peter Attwood1961 - 66Remained in Drawing Office to 1969
Dennis Boney1955 - 60Remained in Tool Room to 1961
Michael Bonner
Brian Bonner
Barry Buckingham
Bill Cakebread1958 - 63Remained in Drawing Office to 1966
Bob Cakebread1962 - 67Remained in Drawing Office to 1969
Malcolm Cook1962 - 66Left due to timekeeping
Bernard Copleston
Alan Crouch1958 - 63Remained in Tool Room
Roy Cunningham1960 - 65Remained in Tool Room (jig borer) to 1966 (then to Fords)
Trevor Denman1959 - 64Remained in Drawing Office to 1969
Derek Dixon
Roger Dulake1962 - 64Dismissed
Douglas Dunwoody
Bill Ellis
John Foster
Chris Garbaro1961 -Died
Mick Giddings1957 - 62Remained in Tool Design
Chris Grace1962 - 67Remained in Drawing Office to 1969
Peter (Fluff) GuinigaultRemained in Tool Cutter Grinders
Edward (Ned) HookerRemained in Drawing Office to 1968 ?
Mark Hosken
Keith (Ginger) Jackson1961 - 66Joined Fords at research centre
Derek Lloyd
Ron Melrose
Fred Miles1959 - 64
Mick Odell1956 - 61Remained in Tool Design to 1961
Alan Puplett1965 - 69
Barry Rennick
Dave Smith1961 - 66Joined fire service
Mickey Thorne
Alan Varney
John WallaceH Collier & Sons
Terry WetherfieldRemained in Drawing Office to 1969
Ken Whincop
Derek MuntonRemained in Press Tool / Planning

Tony BottingRemained as a Tester
Bob Chandler1962 - 65
Norman CrewRemained in Millwrights
Roy Gilbert
John Kelleher1958 - 61Remained in Sub-Contracts
Ray Lightfoot1959 -Remained as a Tester