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North East automotive firms are revving up their skills base by teaming up with Gateshead College to invest in apprenticeships.

Big-hitters including Evans Halshaw, Hodgson Motor Group and Premier Truck Hire, along with SMEs such as Springfield Motors, Arnold Clark Body Shop and Durham Motor Services, have created three-year apprenticeships for 14 students who have all completed various courses at the college.  

Their new roles cover a range of automotive disciplines, from warehousing and mechanical service and repair to vehicle body repair and production management.

Meanwhile, other automotive students at Gateshead College are utilising their skills by embarking on apprenticeships in other sectors including education, engineering and the built environment.   

The apprentices will combine study at Gateshead College’s Skills Academy for Automotive, Engineering, Manufacturing and Logistics with on-the-job training at their respective companies, which have turned to apprenticeships as a way of tackling long-term skills shortages.

The North East is home to around 240 automotive firms that generate more than £11 billion in sales per year, employ 30,000 people and export in excess of £6.5 billion. The North East Automotive Alliance predicts that the sector has the potential to create around 10,000 additional jobs in the next 5-10 years – but this will only be achieved if an influx of new skills can be found. 

Marc Madden, bodyshop manager at Washington-based Springfield Motors, said: “It’s vital that companies like ours have good succession planning policies in place. Apprenticeships can fill the skills gap left by the departure of older members of the workforce.

“This form of training can also upskill existing staff and keep them up to speed in an industry where things change on a regular basis, whether that be the introduction of new regulations or emerging technologies that make automotive operations more efficient. 

“Working with a like-minded partner in Gateshead College is invaluable for us as they really understand the needs of our industry. They’re at the forefront of new technologies and their automotive academy contains all the latest equipment in an environment that replicates a proper workplace.”

Springfield Motors has hired Lewis Telford as an apprentice panel beater at its dealership on the Crowther Industrial Estate in Washington. He completed two Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) accredited level 2 diplomas at Gateshead College – one in vehicle service and repair and the other in vehicle accident repair – before embarking on his apprenticeship.

The 19-year-old said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to start my career in a fast-moving industry. Completing the courses at Gateshead College has opened the door for an apprenticeship, which will allow me to learn technical skills in the workshop while getting my academic qualifications and earning a wage.

“My career goal is to become a fully qualified panel technician. I’ve had a love of cars from an early age and I get a real buzz from working on our customer’s vehicles.”   

Ivan Jepson, director of business development at Gateshead College, said: “It’s great to see Springfield and other local automotive firms invest in apprenticeships, which can help businesses grow through the development of new skills and fresh ideas. We work with these employers to develop bespoke learning programmes that are tailored to their business needs, which gives them the best chance to grow and prosper.”   

To find out more about Gateshead College and the automotive courses on offer, visit www.gateshead.ac.uk/courses/full-time/automotive-and-engineering/

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