Leading engineers stress importance of apprenticeships

  • 10-31-2011

A FIRM whose products were held up by the Government as an example of British engineering excellence has stressed the importance of on-the-job training for youngsters after being inundated with applications for two apprentice places.

When precision and heavy engineering firm Tees Components Limited advertised for new apprentices, it received more than 100 applications.

The firm's general manager Sharon Lane said that she had seen a general increase in apprentice applications since the introduction of university tuition fees.

And she stressed that apprenticeships should not be seen as a second-class alternative to university, with those joining her firm well qualified, particularly in maths and sciences.

The company based in Skelton, east Cleveland, is one of only a handful of UK companies capable of precision machining, fabricating and assembling components weighing up to 50 tonnes and seven-metres in diameter

Ms Lane said: "The apprenticeship programme is hugely important.

"We work in a highly specialised niche market. Very few companies in the UK have the capability to precision machine products to the sizes we can, and the best way to prepare the next generation of engineers with the unique skills needed to do it well is to teach them ourselves.

"The apprentices that we take are clever lads who have done really well at school, one of ours was a straight A student who excelled at maths and sciences and some go on to do their qualifications upto HNC.

"They are all bright kids, it is an old fashioned idea where you are one or the other, ours are well educated and they need to be to understand mechanical engineering.

"We have seen an increase in applications for apprenticeships and an increase in mature applicants over 21 as well."

Earlier this year the firm's subsiduary Tees Gill Thrusters, was one of only 40 companies invited to submit a product to a new Government initiative called Made in Britain, aimed at inspiring young people to pursue engineering careers.

Ms Lane added: "One of the things we are trying to do is to change that perception of engineering. It is not this smoke stack industry anymore, it is cutting edge technology that changes all the time."

The new apprentices, Joe Cowley, 17, from Eston, and 16-year-old Ryan Welford from Guisborough, begin their four-year apprenticeships just as four established apprentices - Luke Cox, Mike Harbison, Josh Pearson and Tony Moore - are due to finish serving their time.

Ms Lane added: "With Joe and Ryan, we now have six apprentices out of a workforce of 63, which is nearly ten per cent."

Machine shop manager Mark Speke, who started at Tees Components as an apprentice in 1984, said: "Our apprenticeship training is very hands-on based. Apprentices get a thorough grounding in all the traditional machine shop skills."

Tees Components, founded in 1963 as a machine and fabrication sub-contractor serving coal mines and steel foundries, has increased turnover by 20 per cent in the past year.

Five years ago, overseas sales accounted for only five per cent of Tees Components' total output, but in the past 12 months, exports have contributed 50 per cent, with new markets established in the US, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, South Korea, Egypt and Malaysia.

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