Celebrating bridging the skills gap-on the transporter

07 March 2017

Early in the 20th century, Teesside apprentices were an important part of the highly-skilled workforce that built the iconic Transporter Bridge.

So the top of the bridge was a fitting venue for Teesside bosses who support modern apprenticeships to gather in celebration of a major UK push to recruit more of them.

The event was organised by Northern Skills Group, the commercial training arm of Middlesbrough College, which is responsible for around 2,000 apprentices every year.

They invited along employers from across the region who use the services of Northern Skills Group, formerly the training arm of the North East Chamber of Commerce.

Northern Skills Group director Peter Wilson said: “The way apprenticeships are funded is changing in April with the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy on larger companies.

“It’s a recognition of the huge need in this country to bridge the skills gap that is already hitting UK productivity.

“The employers who joined us at the Transporter Bridge are all demonstrating that they understand the need to plan for the future, and to recruit and train the highly-skilled workers they need to help their businesses thrive.”

One of the guests who took in the famed view from the top of the bridge was Andrew Whitwell, managing director at robotics specialist Labman.

He said: “Apprenticeship schemes allow Labman to help young people grow up with a work ethic, a real nine to five way of life, and a knowledge base relevant to actual employment.

“The proportion of people with an intrinsic academic mindset has always been surpassed by bright but practical individuals better suited to the kaleidoscope of workplace experiences.

“Apprenticeships apply the 'need' before the 'how' to learning.”

Among the guests were also some of the apprentices trained at Northern Skills Group, and their tutors. Lee Harris, Data and Compliance officer at digital marketing firm Espresso Web, said apprentices have been behind the rapid expansion of his company for some time.

“Without them, we would not be where we are today,” he said.

“Their enthusiasm, dedication, and determination to always deliver the best for our clients is second to none and any company, in any field, would benefit from such qualities.”

Andrea Cole, HR representative at Caterpillar, said: “Apprenticeships have enabled us to tailor the training to meet the specific needs of our business helping us develop our future workforce.

“We’ve seen the benefit of our apprentices splitting their time between college and the workplace enabling them to put the theory into practice.”

Peter Wilson said Northern Skills Group is working closely with businesses across the region to respond to the implementation of the Apprenticeship Levy, support the development of new apprenticeship standards and the delivery of whole workforce development solutions.

“We’re committed to delivering training and development solutions that are attuned to the needs of North East businesses like our guests today,” he said.

“Our thanks go to everyone who took part in our event.

“The Transporter Bridge remains a true symbol of the skills and creativity that have earned this region a fantastic worldwide reputation – and today’s apprentices are the ones who will be taking that reputation forward.”

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