By Martin Walker
The world’s largest producer of garden care equipment which has a major Newton Aycliffe operation is showing its commitment to training up young people by taking on six new Apprentices.
Swedish firm Husqvarana – which produces a range of Robotic mowers along with the Flymo range of products at its 45,000 square metre factory on Aycliffe Business Park – has teamed up with local training-provider, South West Durham Training (SWDT), to take on two new Apprentices every year for the next three years.
It’s the first time Husqvarna – which employs 240 full-time employees and also has a further 420 temporary staff on its books – has taken on Apprentices in nearly six years.
Scott Maclean, from Darlington, and Nathan Bresnen, from Seaham, both 18, are already seven months into their electrical and mechanical Apprenticeships, working with SWDT’s trainers, and are due to join Husqvarna in March to complete the programme.
Husqvarna’s facilities manager Joe Storey said: “One of the problems we have at Husqvarna is finding the right skill levels to do all the work we want to do.
“You can end up with someone who’s really good with electrical but not very good on mechanical, and vice-versa.
“What we want to do is train these guys to the level we want so they’re competent in electrical, hydraulics, pneumatics and mechanical, so we get the best of everything.
“The last time we took on Apprentices was six years ago, when we felt that we had enough people and the skills, but then through skilled people retiring, being promoted or leaving us, we’ve suddenly found ourselves with a skills gap.
“So we’ve put this programme together to take on two apprentices this year, next year and another two in 2016.”
SWDT specialises in training courses for the engineering and manufacturing sectors, working with firms such as Tata Global Beverages and Nifco UK Ltd, and has been operating from the same site on Aycliffe Business Park since 1967.
It recently celebrated its highest ever Apprenticeship success rate, which at 85% is 12% above the national average.
Business development co-ordinator Jeremy Cannon said: “This is a great opportunity for the Apprentices.
“Also, not only has Husqvarna taken on two this year, but they’re also looking to take on two next year and two the following year, so obviously we’re delighted to be working with Husqvarna on delivering skilled people for its workforce.”
Nathan says he has already learned a lot during his tutoring at SWDT.
“We’re learning electrical principles, how to wire up panels, and also the mechanical section, taking apart a milling machine, put it back together and see if it works,” he said.
“It’s a really good opportunity for me to get started on my career and work up to get a full-time job.”
Scott, meanwhile, sees it as an opportunity to move on to further education.
“It’s a good way of learning and getting the knowledge,” he said. “You’re not just understanding why things happen, you’re actually doing it at the same time.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and also a chance to advance and go on to a higher level of education.
“And the facilities at SWDT are excellent. I’ve been on other engineering courses in the past and this blows them out of the water.”
● Do you need more skilled people? Find out more about SWDT and Apprenticeship opportunities at www.southwestdurham.co.uk or call 01325 313194.
● Pictured above is Husqvarna facilities manager Joe Storey (left) and SWDT’s business development co-ordinator Jeremy Cannon with the two apprentices, Nathan Bresnen (left) and Scott Maclean.