Daniel Chapman

First trainees emerge from innovative North East engineering academy

A North East engineering training centre has been hailed a success as its first class of 11 trainees have gone on to find full-time apprenticeships with firms.

The Ford Engineering Academy, operated in partnership between Ford Aerospace Limited in South Shields and South Tyneside College, say success has been based on the youngsters’ positive attitudes, the skilled instruction they have received, and the support given by manufacturers.

More young people are now being urged to join the programme, which provides basic engineering skills, when it runs for a second time later this month and again in September.

Academy creator Geoff Ford MBE, chairman of Ford, which comprises Ford Aerospace Ltd and Ford Component Manufacturing Ltd, said: “I’m incredibly encouraged by our first trainees, their attitude has been superb.

“They have been fully committed to learning and to completing the course, and have paved the way for others to follow.

“The programme has been an absolutely resounding success and I fully expect the vast majority of the learners to be offered advanced three-year apprenticeships by the companies with whom they have done work experience.

“Employers across the North East have been very supportive, they know the good work we are aiming to do. I believe the academy has a very bright future.”

The academy launched in September and aims to give 16 to 18-year-olds the initial training needed to eventually gain highly skilled and well paid jobs within a sector that is suffering a recognised national skills shortage.

Mr Ford won vital support from the South Shields-based college, from where training is currently run and whose engineering lecturers oversee the programme.

Later this year the academy will switch to new specialist facilities at Ford Aerospace’s factory site at Tyne Dock, South Shields.

The trainees completed 12 learning modules, including milling, hand fitting, welding and lathe work, enthusiastically embracing four extra added to the course as it progressed.

Apprentice Daniel Chapman, 16, of Waverdale Way, South Shields, said: “I’ve enjoyed every minute of my training and I’ve learnt an awful lot, it’s been a great way to take the first step into a career in engineering.

“The instruction and the facilities in which we have worked have been first class – I would strongly recommend the traineeship programme to any young person who wants to learn about engineering and gain a career within it.”

As well as Ford, the North East firms supporting the academy by providing work experience placements are Cellpack Solutions, Essentra, Washington Metalworks, Quick Hydraulics and Soil Machine Dynamics.

At the end of their work experience, each trainee is guaranteed an interview with their respective company, giving them the perfect springboard to a full-time apprenticeship or job opportunity. Another option is to take a Level 3 college apprenticeship.

Haas Automation, the world’s largest CNC machine tool manufacturer, and Cromwell, a leading provider of cutting tools and industrial supplies, are providing precision equipment and other backing.

Fifteen training places are available for the February course, which runs until July, a number that will rise to 20 for the September intake, reflecting growing interest.

Academy bosses are now also forming strong links with schools to promote its opportunities.

Anyone interested in becoming a trainee should contact Marie Flatman at South Tyneside College on 427 3900 or email marie.flatman@stc.ac.uk.

Firms wishing to support the academy programme can meet Mr Ford at an employers’ event at Ford Aerospace from noon on Thursday, February 6, subject to invitation.

Further information is available from Mr Ford on 454 0141 or by emailing geoff.ford@ford-aerospace.com.

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