More than 50 apprentices have been honoured at a celebration event at one of the region’s leading engineering firms.
The learners, all of whom are studying for advanced welding and fabricating qualifications at Hartlepool College, were recognised at engineering specialist Darchem’s plant in Stillington near Stockton.
So far, 14 apprentices have graduated with Darchem following four years of work-based learning and have set the standard for a further 44 first, second and third year students. The event marked the first graduation of students since Hartlepool College became the sole provider of Darchem’s higher education and commercial training requirements.
Managing director Billy Meijer, who presented awards at the ceremony, said: “There is a substantial skills shortage in the specialist engineering and manufacturing industry and so it is our duty to develop the workforce and train them up to a very high standard.”
Darchem specialises in insulation systems, structural components and special fabrications for the aerospace, nuclear, marine, oil & gas, off highway and the Formula 1 industries. It is part of the US quoted company Esterline and employs more than 900 staff.
Meijer added that apprentices were key to the growth of the business, which now reports an £83m turnover.
“We have over 900 employees at Darchem of which 7%, and climbing, are currently going through our apprentice training programme,” he said.
“Partnering with Hartlepool College has been a key to meeting our strategic objective.”
Hartlepool College principal Darren Hankey said: “Darchem Engineering is an excellent example of a company which is looking to the future and preparing for a major skills shortage. Their continued support and investment in our students will ensure they will have educated and skilled labour for years to come.”