A leading Teesside businessman returned to his roots to congratulate the next generation of engineering apprentices.
Nifco boss Mike Matthews, who was named North East Business Executive of the Year last month, was the star guest at an annual awards event held by Newton Aycliffe-based SW Durham Training (SWDT).
Matthews, originally from Darlington, learned his trade with SWDT, leaving the training provider as a time-served tool maker in 1981.
He was, therefore, keen to applaud a group of young apprentices who were recently singled out for their achievements during the year.
“Apprenticeships are close to my heart and it’s great to see lots of former colleagues and trainers,” said Matthews, Nifco’s European operations officer and managing director who worked his way up from the shopfloor.
“A lot of things I learned at SW Durham Training have stuck with me throughout my career.
“The majority of people from the class of ’81 went on to achieve fantastic things, and there are SWDT-trained apprentices all over the world with top, top jobs.
“SWDT gave me a great start in life. I met some great friends who I’m still friends with today.”
Matthews added that apprenticeships remained an integral part of Nifco’s plans.
The firm – which makes plastic components from door handles to bumper brackets for customers including Nissan, Ford and Honda – spent £8.5m relocating to its current Eaglescliffe site and now employs 350 staff.
“At Nifco, we’re taking on apprentices in all areas of the business,” Matthews said.
“We work with and supply to world-class companies, with a top reputation in the industry, and we do that with a bunch of ex-apprentices. I came from an era when families used to work in factories, with different generations of a family all under the same roof, and we try to encourage that ethos at Nifco.”
The SWDT award winners included Nathan Bain of Woodham Academy (Best Year 10 School Pupil); Cailin Smith of Ferryhill School (Best Year 11); Liam McAreavey of Springfield NE Ltd (Engineering Machining Award); Anja Gardelin of Sone Products (Electrical Engineering Award); Dean Moore of William Cook (Mechanical Engineering Award); Thomas Wise of D&S Service (Fabrication Award); Radoslav Baniak of Ebac (Award for Effort); Daniel Christie of Tacle Seating UK (Health & Safety Cup); Jamie Taylor of Nifco (European Exchange Programme); and Alex Hird (Overall Apprentice of the Year).
SWDT is one of the region’s leading training providers, working in Co Durham, North Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, Teesside, Tyneside, Tyne and Wear, Northumberland, Cumbria and beyond. It offers a wide range of set courses and also designs tailored courses to meet the requirements of specific individuals.