Apprentice brothers Matthew Jamie and Sam Robson with team leader Ian Callender and Gateshead College business development director Ivan Jepson
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Princess Royal award win for Northumberland manufacturer

One of Northumberland’s biggest employers, the Essity tissue mill, has won a prestigious Princess Royal Training Award for its apprentice programme – the first ever for a manufacturer in the region.

As president of City & Guilds Group, Princess Anne established the awards in 2016 to recognise employers with outstanding training and development programmes that have a direct impact on business performance.

Nasdaq Stockholm-listed Essity employs around 400 people at its mill in Prudhoe – its largest UK manufacturing site – making leading brands such as Cushelle, Velvet and Tork. Since introducing its apprentice programme in 2004 it has seen 150 youngsters forge a career in manufacturing.

“Within five years of completing their apprenticeship, eleven have gone on to become area technicians, seven are crew leaders and five appointed as area leaders. To have this kind of career progression, with this number of under 30-year-olds all in management roles, was beyond our wildest dreams when we set up the scheme,” said mill manager Tony Richards.

“Thanks to a close relationship with our training provider Gateshead College, we have doubled our annual apprentice intake to 20 – with eleven new process apprentices and nine technical apprentices starting in September.

“Our apprentice cohort brings huge value to the business, and we now have them in almost every trade. As well as traditional areas such as electrical and mechanical, we include planning, logistics, Health & Safety, environment and finance – so have a strong pipeline of talent for the future.

“I am immensely proud of what our young employees do for this business on a daily basis and in helping us to win this fantastic award, with some of them being interviewed by City & Guilds assessors as part of the judging process.”

Launching the awards, Princess Anne said: “As president of The City & Guilds London Institute, it’s always a pleasure to see the quality and range of learning programmes that are put forward for consideration for The Princess Royal Training Awards.

“As we prepare to take advantage of new and exciting technologies, it becomes increasingly important to ensure that the skills of individuals keep pace. The awards clearly demonstrate that investing in people delivers real and tangible benefits for employers, employees and not least our economy and I congratulate those who achieve the standard of excellence.”

HRH will present Essity Prudhoe Mill with the award in October, at an event at St James Palace attended by the 43 other recipients – all described as exemplars of training & learning best-practice and including IBM, Veolia, BAE Systems and RBS.

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