The Journal has united with leading firms across the region to encourage others to follow their example and invest in training. Our Proud To Back Apprenticeships campaign aims to convince firms the region needs to see at least half of all companies in the manufacturing and engineering sector recruiting new talent. And while the principal aim of Proud To Back Apprenticeships is to achieve that 50% figure in the manufacturing sector, the benefits of investing in a new generation of skilled workers goes much further.
At the end of last month, 19 new recuits, aged between 16 and 21, started their careers at the Newcastle-based engineering group British Engines.
The latest group of apprentices, who take the total working across group’s six sites to 67, were brought on board after a rigourous selection process that saw than more 130 applications and 74 interviews.
But, as group chairman Alex Lamb, who employs 1,100 people, explained, British Engines believes it’s worth the effort.
“We have always had faith in the idea of apprenticeships and I firmly believe it has paid off for us,” he said.
“I can understand why some businesses, especially smaller ones, have been reluctant to go down this route.
“There is some cost, both monetary and in time; from start to end, our recruitment programme this year took four months.
“But it is important to get it right. You reap the benefits if you do.”
Indeed, British Engines, which incorporates six different business strands, has been actively supporting apprenticeships since the 1960s.
During that time, hundreds of engineers, including many who have gone on to senior positions both within the company and with others, began their careers as apprentices based at its St Peter’s Basin headquarters.
Such is group’s passion for apprenticeships, in fact, that in September last year it launched a new academy and programme to recruit around 20 young people a year, giving them training opportunities right up to a Masters Degree in Engineering.
Earlier this year, the Apprenticeship+ scheme was recognised by the sector’s professional body, The Institution of Mechanical Engineers (iMechE), which awarded British Engines a Certificate of Accreditation Engineering.
The group is the first in the North East to receive the recognition in this way, highlighting how important it is, both for British Engines itself and the wider economy, to nurture the talents of the new wave of skilled engineers.
“This recognition reflects well on the company but also brings great benefit to the apprentices as they pursue their careers,” said business development manager Denis Healey.
“Not everybody has the luxury of being part of a company like British Engines.
“Central Government has recognised that engineering has become essential to solving our economic problems and predicts a significant shortfall of engineers over the next five years.
“So a supply of high quality engineers to meet this need is now urgent.
“The IMechE resources available to British Engines apprentices following recognition will enable them to progress their careers in engineering to the very highest level, as well as enabling them to start their careers with an officially recognised professional accreditation.”
The latest recruits have joined British Engines at a time of expansion for the group, which will soon be moving one of its companies, Rotary Power, out of the St Peter’s headquarters in into a 150,000 sq ft factory in Simonside, South Shields.
The move frees up space for another part of the group, BEL Valves, to grow and British Engines has already secured £850,000 from The Journal’s Let Grow Regional Growth Fund to assist its development.
Mr Lamb said: “The Journal has demonstrated its support for a number of North East businesses, including our own, through the Let’s Grow initiative.
“It understands the needs businesses have, which is why it has also recognised the danger posed by the skills gap and launched the Proud to Back Apprenticeships campaign.
“We have been fortunate to grow British Engines in recent years because we have a skilled workforce which has been able to provide innovative engineering solutions for oil and gas companies as they explore more remote and inaccessible fields.
“We have been acutely aware that those talented men and women will not be with us for ever and it has been absolutely vital for us to recruit our own apprentices, train them in our specialist sector and let them benefit from the experience of more senior colleagues around them.
“That is why we are Proud to Back Apprenticeships.”