The skills and knowledge of dozens of members of regional employer Banks Mining’s operational team have been recognised at a special event at one of the family-owned firm’s Northumberland sites.

More than 60 Banks Mining employees gathered at the Shotton surface mine near Cramlington to each receive their Level 2 certificates in Plant Operations certificates achieved via apprenticeships and standalone qualifications.

The successful staff work across Banks’ Shotton and nearby Brenkley Lane surface mines and the qualifications were gained through a combination of on and off-the-job and classroom-based learning, supported by employers and their teaching assessors.

The qualification is supported by the Construction Plant Competence Scheme (CPCS), an independent initiative which recognises the skills, knowledge, competence and qualifications of those involved in plant operations.

At the beginning of 2019, Banks Mining was named Employer Of The Year in the Apprenticeship Skills Awards run by Ixion Holdings, a not-for-profit group of companies that provides apprenticeship advice, guidance, development and training across the UK.

Ixion, which is a subsidiary of major UK employment and skills charity The Shaw Trust Group, worked with The Banks Group on the creation of a bespoke plant operating apprenticeship programme at the Shotton and Brenkley Lane surface mines, and has supported the progress of the 60 employees and apprentices.

The family-owned business also recently converted facilities at its Thrislington depot in County Durham into a new classroom and conference facility that now acts as a dedicated base for its plant mechanic traineeships and in work upskilling programmes.

Jacqueline Oughton, Managing Director at Ixion Holdings and Chief Operating Officer at the Shaw Trust Group, who presented the certificates, says: “Banks Mining makes a continuing commitment to developing the skills, competence and knowledge of its operational teams and the staff at its surface mines have demonstrated their expertise in achieving their latest qualifications.

“Training and development has to be a real focus for northern businesses if they are to stay competitive, and Banks’ consistent long-term investment in this area has a positive impact on the skillsbase available within the wider regional economy.”

Keith Tarn, group HR manager at The Banks Group, adds: “The substantial investment we make in developing our highly-skilled teams ensures we can continue to help meet the UK’s enduring need for coal through domestic resources, rather than the country having to rely on imported supplies which create far greater greenhouse gas emissions than our own.

“Our surface mine sites provide an environment in which our teams develop skills and knowledge they can use right through their working lives, and we’re proud of the commitment that our excellent staff make to improving their workplace skills and career progression opportunities.

“Banks Mining has been providing people in the North East with the chance to build long-term careers and support their families through our mining operations for more than four decades, and our aim is to continue building on this enviable track record.

“We firmly believe that, while coal is still needed in the UK for a range of industrial purposes, it should be mined domestically in line with a very strict planning regime, rather than coming in from abroad, where the environmental cost to our climate is substantially more damaging.

“Around 80% of the UK’s current coal need is met through imports, increasingly from the US and particularly from Russia – and when it comes to the respective greenhouse gas emissions produced by the mining and transportation of this essential mineral from abroad, they are far higher and far more damaging for our global climate than producing it in the UK.”