A North East business has won a major award for pioneering training programmes that support both its existing workforce and those seeking careers in engineering and manufacturing.
Technology component makers Ford Aerospace Limited and Ford Component Manufacturing Limited have secured the Developing People Award for Yorkshire, Humberside and the North East in EEF/Aldermore’s Future Manufacturing Awards - and will now compete for the national title.
The company’s success reflects a raft of established and recent training initiatives, including the upskilling and reskilling of existing staff, incentives for those approaching retirement age to stay in employment and the creation, in 2013, of the Ford Engineering Academy, a partnership with South Tyneside College to train 16 to 24 year olds.
Ford chairman Geoff Ford MBE said: “Winning is a fabulous recognition and affirmation of the far-sighted programmes we have in place for our dedicated workforce.
“A company is only as good as its staff and for a business to succeed it must invest in its people, and that is exactly what we have done time and time again.
“While winning regionally is a tremendous achievement, I’m very much looking forward to the national stage, where we will hopefully triumph.”
Lindsey Whiterod OBE, chief executive of South Tyneside College, added: “To overcome the significant skills gap, companies must do all they can to encourage young people into industry and better encourage those already working in the sector to stay and become as highly skilled as possible.
“These are widely faced challenges, and I hope this award success will encourage other companies to act as Ford have and do more in this area.”
Founded in 1910, Ford comprises Ford Aerospace Ltd, based at Tyne Dock, South Shields, and Ford Component Manufacturing Ltd, which operates from plants in Hebburn, South Tyneside, and New York Industrial Park, North Shields.
Employing around 160 people, it manufactures components for the aerospace and defence sectors, and associated industries.
The Ford Engineering Academy mixes on-the-job and workshop training with classroom teaching in six-month programmes for school-leavers.
Its work is supported by high-profile firms, including Haas Automation, Cromwell, Cellpack Solutions, Essentra, Quick Hydraulics and Soil Machine Dynamics.
All who pass are guaranteed an interview for any job vacancy at one of those firms, each of which takes a trainee on a six-week work placement.
Afterwards, they are taken on as full-time advanced apprentices or progress towards a higher relevant Level 3 qualification at the college, the project’s major financial and training partner.
Ford also operates an apprenticeship programme, has policies to encourage experienced staff to learn new skills and works to help others to stay in work after retirement age.
The EEF/Aldermore judging panel was drawn from business leaders, industry experts and academics.
Leyton Jeffs, regional sales director of Invoice Finance at Aldermore, said: “Congratulations to Ford on their well-deserved success. Employees play a vital role in any company’s success – their skills and commitment are crucial.
“It’s clear that Ford recognises the importance of its people and has invested in their training and development. We wish them the best of luck for the national finals.”