One of the region's best known businessmen working in the automotive sector has called on more North East firms to "open their minds" to the benefits of apprenticeships.
Nissan dealer Vic Young – a former apprentice himself – has trained young people via the route since setting up his business back in 1974.
He currently has five apprentices working at his dealership on Newcastle Road, South Shields, where a wide range of additional services are also offered.
“I value apprenticeships because they are the future,” he said.
“The sky’s the limit for them, as far as I’m concerned, and businesses need to look after tomorrow.
“You’ve got to get the skills level up as lots of skilled individuals have left our industry.”
Apprentices working the company receive regular feedback and are periodically invited to assess their own performance in a range of applicable areas, rating their aptitude on a scale of one to five.
This is then used as a basis through which to open discussion, work on any weak spots and acknowledge the strengths of the apprentices.
“Too many appraisals and things like that are used as a beating stick,” Young said.
“That’s the last thing we want them to be.
“We encourage them and want them to grow the confidence to do the job well.”
To get the apprentices to that point, Young works with a number of educational establishments including Gateshead, South Tyneside and Hebburn colleges, all of which, he says, are open to valuable discussions, helping refine what they offer to young people and industry.
There are, in fact, few barriers to taking on apprentices, Young says, adding that his message to North East businesses still failing to do so is: “Open your mind; you’ve got to explore the option.”
One Vic Young apprentice Kyle Brewis said: “The motor industry has always been in my blood from an early age as my dad also works at Vic Young and it seemed like the natural step to put myself forward for the apprenticeship scheme.
“My apprenticeship role is in the Northern Truck Bodies division and consists of studying for my NVQ in Welding & Fabrication at Gateshead College whilst working full-time hours on-site to ensure I develop the skill set required to work in the body building team.
“Vic Young offers a fantastic opportunity to young people and I look forward to progressing my career here.”
Day in the life of an apprentice: Alex Fife
Gateshead College student Alex Fife is in the final year of a five year apprenticeship as a maintenance technician with Sunderland car giant Nissan. Here he reflects on a typical day in his working life.
6.00am – Get up in readiness for my 12-hour day at Nissan. I’m currently in the middle of a shift which sees me work two days and two nights followed by four days off. On day shift today.
7.00am – Arrive at work. In my role as an apprentice maintenance technician I carry out electrical and mechanical work on important machinery, which helps to make the vehicles produced at Nissan.
7.30am – Attend a morning meeting to review activities on the previous shift. Nissan adheres to the principles of continuous improvement and we always strive to find ways of doing things better and more efficiently. In today’s meeting we analysed a production fault. We put in place some measures, including additional quality assurance checks, to try to prevent the fault occurring again.
8.30am – I spend the morning working on my assignment, which forms part of my apprenticeship. I’m working on a busbar system, a wireless piece of equipment that measures the voltage running through the plant. It can flag up any potential dangers, such as unsafe voltage levels that could result in injury to workers. The assignment will form part of an HNC Level 4 in engineering maintenance – a nationally recognised qualification that will look good on my CV. Previously on my apprenticeship I gained other recognised qualifications, including an NVQ Level 2 in Performing Engineering Operations, an NVQ Level 3 in Engineered Systems and an Extended Diploma in Engineering (Level 3).
12.30pm – Lunch. I sometimes take food to work with me but there is a canteen on site.
1.30pm – Meeting with my line manager to review progress. I’ve been with the company for more than four years and throughout that time I’ve had regular reviews to measure my performance against outputs. All good companies do this and it helps me to focus on my goals. I also have regular reviews with my Gateshead College tutors to discuss progress on assignments and any issues I have with the apprenticeship in general.
3.30pm – Checked performance of a marriage carousel, a piece of equipment that fixes the axle and engine to the vehicle. These parts have to be put in place very accurately so the carousel has to be highly efficient; there’s no room for error as this would affect the performance of the vehicle.
5.30pm – Team meeting to discuss our Planning, Prevention and Maintenance (PPM) scheme. PPM is all about reviewing the way we do things on site to reduce downtime and costs. If a piece of equipment is out of action for an hour, this could have a massive impact on production. Efficiency is a buzz word at Nissan and I grasped the importance of that key skill while studying at Gateshead College. The courses teach you transferable skills – such as planning, organisation and teamwork – which you really need if you’re going to work at Nissan.
6.30pm – Grabbed some time at the end of the day to continue work on my busbar assignment.
7.00pm – Home. Another good day. The best thing about the job is that no two days are the same.