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Wednesday, 20 August 2014

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Learning workplace skills that will last for a lifetime

WITH Government calls on the private sector to play its part in helping to re-build the UK’s economy, apprentices at one Workington engineering company are enjoying the benefits of training with a firm investing in its workforce.

Hudson-Swan Engineering, in Peart Road, Derwent Howe, is a specialist process engineering and parts business, for which maintaining the skills base is a top priority.

The firm has six apprentices, training on programmes from welding and fabrication to precision engineering. They are at various stages of their training, from new recruits fresh into the programme, to apprentices who are three years into the scheme.

JAMIE STARKIE, 20, of Cockermouth, is an apprentice welder and has been training with the company for two years.

After leaving Cockermouth School he started a foundation apprenticeship at Lakes College before joining the team at Hudson-Swan.

He said: “I only have eight months left of my apprenticeship now, after that I’ll be a time-served welder fabricator.

“On a day-to-day basis I can work on anything from steel pipes to industrial doors. These products can be sent to the likes of Iggesund Paperboard and Amcor Flexibles or around the UK to other national firms.

“It is only a small team here but because of that we are given the chance to work on a lot of different projects and develop our skills more than what we probably would do at a larger firm.”

DEAN SMITH, 18, of Whitehaven, started with Hudson-Swan only a few weeks ago as an apprentice machinist on a three month trial. He will then be taken on September as part of the firm’s apprenticeship programme.

He said: “Training here is so much more than I expected it to be – I have been taken on directly through the company and I am due to start my theory at Lakes College soon. That will back up what I’m learning here at work.

“At the moment I’ve been started off welding test pieces and I’ll then go on to work on more intricate machining projects. The supervisors on the shopfloor work alongside me though, and are really helpful when it comes to guiding me through the work.

“I am getting the chance to experience what it’s like to work in the engineering and manufacturing industry learning the basics at first then skills that will stay with me for the rest of my career.”

SHANE BREWER, 22, of Moorclose, is a first year apprentice machinist. He left Southfield Technology College and began training as a plasterer but decided to retrain when work and opportunities dried up.

He said: “An apprenticeship was the only route for me as I’m a very hands-on person naturally. I decided to switch from plastering and been the best decision I’ve made.

“I’m half way through my NVQ level 3 course and it’s been a great experience. I’ve gained a host of skills in machining and CNC work. I’ve got just over one year left in my apprenticeship.

“I’ll then be hopefully taken on full time here - I really enjoy working here so my plans, for the next few years at least, is to stay here and develop a career with Hudson Swan.

“One of the things the training scheme here has given me is independence and responsibility. As apprentices we’re expected to work on projects on our own and use our initiative independently.”

Mike Layfield, operations manager at the firm, said new blood in a workforce is vital for the survival of any business, especially one such as Hudson-Swan’s which has a focused expertise and skills set.

He said: “Our apprenticeship programme has been a great success and it is in our best interest to train up young people with the hope they will build a career with us.

“We have chosen to take apprentices from Lakes College for the last three years. It works well for us as you get to trial apprentices before you commit to them as employees.

“Trainees can learn bad habits when they are on the workshop floor, so I know that when they go to college they are learning to do things the right way, the latest health and safety standards, and get to network with other engineering apprentices in turn bringing back fresh ideas.

“We realise that this is a long term investment but we are happy to commit to the right apprentices. It is all about keeping the customer happy and we have been in business for 30 years, which in these times is no mean feat.”

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