Despite youth unemployment among 16 to 24 year-olds in the UK exceeding one million, a Northumberland-based chipboard manufacturer is bucking the trend by providing much-needed employment and training for talented local youngsters.
Egger UK is Tynedale’s largest employer with a 500 strong workforce. The company is also Europe’s leading producer of wood-based panels, including chipboard and MFC.
During 2011, Egger recruited 11 new apprentices aged between 16 and 25, from various parts of the Tyne Valley, taking the number of apprentices actively earning and learning on site to 18.
The new recruits follow electrical or mechanical engineering programmes which are delivered in partnership with the Rolls Royce North East Training Centre in Newcastle.
Egger has been operating an extensive Apprenticeship scheme covering key aspects of the business since 2004. To date, the programme has trained 48 youngsters which has led to several apprentices pursuing qualifications and training to degree level and taking on strategic roles within the business.
Head of human resources, Jackie Stevenson, explains: “Ongoing investment in skills is central to building the business and boosting productivity. The company is fully committed to training and developing our people in order to meet the needs of the business and its objectives both now and in the future.”
Egger’s latest apprentices are in training as unemployment across the UK is reported to have risen to 2.69 million with a record number of young people aged 16-24 out of work (standing at 1.043 million). ** Source: Office for National Statistics http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/lms/labour-market-statistics/january-2012/statistical-bulletin.html
Martin Ternent, from Hexham, joined Egger’s Apprenticeship programme aged 19 as a mechanical apprentice. He graduated from Leeds University six months ago with a BSc Honours in Mechanical Manufacturing Engineering, which was funded by the company.
After graduating, Martin was promoted to the role of engineering supervisor in the mechanical section of the Engineering Department at Hexham. Talking about his experience and the benefits of his Apprenticeship, he said: “Apprenticeships offer a real mixture of on and off the job training which enable you to develop the skills you need for your chosen career path and gain important nationally-recognised qualifications.
“During my apprenticeship I learnt lots on the job, carrying out tasks for line managers, which was a great experience. I wasn’t just learning practical skills I was also learning important softer skills, such as communication and how to manage individuals and teams.
“The Egger apprenticeship provided me with a real depth and breadth of experience and new opportunities. It was challenging at times but I thoroughly enjoyed the variety of work. I feel very appreciative to Egger for supporting me throughout my training and my degree.
“My Apprenticeship has been a launch pad for my career within the company and there is still plenty of scope for progression. I really enjoy working with everyone on site and I hope to have a long and successful career within the Egger Group.”
Will Pearson, from Prudhoe joined the Egger Electrical Apprenticeship scheme in July 2011. Explaining why he chose the apprenticeship route, Will said: “I studied engineering and ICT at high school, then I went to Newcastle College to do an NVQ in Electrical Installation. I found out about the Egger apprentice scheme through a friend on the same course. After reading the job description, I knew it was perfect for me so I applied immediately. Now I am able to study and earn a living at the same time.
“Egger is a great company to work for. I enjoy the theoretical part of the training but my favourite aspect is the opportunity to work with the teams on site, where I help to carry out repairs and solve genuine operational issues.
“A recent highlight for me was working a weekend shift and being part of the team which solved a recurring technical problem with the switch gear that feeds the Production Hall. It was fantastic to gain that hands-on experience.
“Looking to the future, it’s my ambition to become a shift electrician. To do that, I’ll need to successfully complete my apprenticeship and do a degree in electrical engineering. Egger is a very forward looking company that invests in its people, and I hope to build my career with them.”
Jackie Stevenson added: “Over five per cent of the work force is apprentices with some having been fast-tracked into supervisory roles. Having competent, career focused people within the company is of up most importance to us because of the specialist nature of our business.
“We have an ongoing strategy to grow our own talent and support the local community by recruiting people from the surrounding area and the apprenticeship programme enables us to that.”
Sue Price, director for Apprenticeships in the Northern Division of the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS), said: “Apprenticeships are helping thousands of businesses across all sectors to harness young talent. In addition to avoiding future skill shortages, apprenticeships provide a means for businesses to improve their bottom line and compete more effectively. They can also play an essential part in helping to rebalance our economy.”