Optimising the value in-use and cost in-use for long-life engineering assets with a Cranfield master’s degree apprenticeship

By Isidro Durazo Cardenas - January 16, 2024


What makes a great leader in the manufacturing, defence, and infrastructure industries? In the past, the employer-employee distinction was clear, with a strict hierarchical structure and often dismal labour conditions for workers. Today, effective leadership requires different capabilities. Good leaders prioritise their people, as well as their business goals, and knowledge and skills are filtered down and transferred across the organisation, thereby ensuring business longevity. 

Here at Cranfield, we recognise the importance of training and nurturing individuals to create a strong pipeline of future leaders. We are one of the first universities in the UK to offer degree apprenticeships at master’s level. These programmes can be funded by the Apprenticeship Levy, a tax levied on businesses with an annual pay bill of more than £3 million a year and charged at a rate of 0.5% of the total payroll, which can then be reinvested back into the company to fund apprenticeships.  

Integrating an apprenticeship programme into your strategy for optimising long-life engineering assets is a smart move that will enable you to upskill and nurture your workforce and bring down costs, so that you can future-proof your organisation and achieve your goals. Additionally, a company that prioritises its people becomes an attractive prospective for new and developing talent, further aiding business longevity.  


Investing in your workforce and generating tangible results 

One of the most powerful ways to generate value from the Apprenticeship Levy is to upskill your existing workforce, creating future leaders who will take your organisation forward. Apprenticeships enable individuals to develop their skills and progress their careers while remaining engaged in the workforce: a boon for both the employee and their employer. 

The Through-life System Sustainment MSc runs part-time over two years and is designed to optimise your organisation's value in-use and cost-in-use for long-life engineering assets by developing the skills, knowledge and behaviours that will shape the engineering leaders of tomorrow. 

“Our programmes designed in collaboration with industry, so we have a very good understanding of the industrial challenges. I think the real added value is that our teaching is applied, it’s very much about finding solutions to problems, and it’s current and looking into the future in terms of how we can implement ideas.” 

Professor John Ahmet Erkoyuncu, Professor of Digital Engineering, Cranfield University

For employers looking to safeguard their long-life engineering assets, developing in-house skills brings significant return on investment. For one, it reduces reliance on external suppliers to maintain and repair valuable assets, and instead creates a steady pipeline of highly knowledgeable workers who understand the requirements of the business. Additionally, individuals are taught how best to look after and conserve valuable assets, in order to extend their lifespan and minimise the requirement for costly repairs. Ultimately, these benefits lead to the creation of a more sustainable organisation that is well-placed to realise its ambitions.  


Developing skills to solve the challenges of tomorrow 

The Through-life System Sustainment MSc apprenticeship provides an essential foundation for aspiring people in organisations, who wish to optimise the value in-use and cost in-use for long-life engineering assets. 

Employees that complete this course will be well-equipped to maximise revenue for their employer through the provision of services that keep products operating effectively, rather than investing in the design, manufacture, and delivery of original equipment (hardware). This will allow your organisation to extend the life of your high-value assets, reducing costs while also working towards achieving sustainability and ESG (environmental, social, and governance) goals. 

To address these requirements, the part-time programme has been developed in collaboration with industry partners Rolls-Royce, the Ministry of Defence (MoD), and Bombardier Transportation.  

The course content addresses two major themes: 

  1. The business context: this aims to define the business opportunity, capabilities required, plan the business change to move to through-life engineering services (TES), and analyse the provision vs consumption trade-off.
  2. The execution activities: this focuses on the design and delivery of the processes and activities that make up the delivery and consumption of TES, and how to optimise the value proposition across the supply network.

Ultimately, the Through-life System Sustainment MSc aims to promote an integrated capability across these two themes in organisations, to increase efficiency and competitiveness. 


Developing leadership skills while continuing to add value to the organisation 

As apprentices, employees can study while continuing to work at no personal cost, via the Apprenticeship Levy. Studying part-time with support from employers and line managers will enable career progression and allow students to receive a higher education qualification while remaining in employment. The experience also presents many opportunities to network and form connections with a diverse range of individuals.  

Recent apprentices’ achievements are testament to the value of the experience. In 2023, Alexia Williams, Life-cycle Engineer at Rolls-Royce, was recognised in the Engineering & Manufacturing category at the Multicultural Apprenticeships Awards. Alexia, who was the first person to undertake a Master’s degree apprenticeship at Rolls-Royce and the first female candidate selected for the course, was described by the judges as a “pioneer” in aerospace engineering. 

 “The course is well structured, intense, and enjoyable. Cranfield University academics are supported by industry experts and this mix of teaching styles works for me. In the day job it would take many years to gain the same depth and breadth of topic understanding that we will enjoy after our two years of study.” 

Jonathan Neal, Capability Development Manager, Engineering for Service 

Alumnus Matt Townley had an article published in the prestigious Journal of Cleaner Production based on his individual project assessing carbon emissions of critical assets and outlining a framework relating asset greenhouse gas emissions (GHGE) to whole-life cost and operational effectiveness. 

Other alumni have gone on to work in roles including: 

  • Senior business specialist
  • Through-life systems sustainment lead
  • Consultant behavioural lead
  • Principal consultant
  • Lead principal obsolescence engineer
  • Director of digital asset management 



For organisations that rely on long-life engineering assets, ensuring their longevity is key to business success. Long-life assets that perform optimally improve efficiency, productivity, and profitability, but maintaining this optimal performance relies on people.  

Investing in your workforce via apprenticeship training will ensure that you have the most highly-skilled and knowledgeable people within your business, who are best placed to work towards your goals.  

Here at Cranfield University, we have a deep understanding of the skills required in industry to solve real-world challenges, and the expertise to deliver that training to a high standard. 


Find out more about the Through-life System Sustainment MSc apprenticeship and register your interest.

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