One of Northumberland’s largest manufacturing employers has appointed 15 engineering apprentices after extending the closing date for applications from youngsters who missed the deadline because of Coronavirus.

“Although we had nearly 200 applications before the original closing date at the end of March, we also heard from a significant number of disappointed potential recruits,” said Marco Paternesi, HR manager at tissue maker Essity’s mill in Prudhoe.

“Not surprisingly, with schools closing en-masse and pupils uncertain as to if and how they would take their final exams, a lot of talented youngsters missed the boat and didn’t get their applications to us in time.

“Given everything that was going on, we decided to push back the deadline by a couple of months – which brought a last-minute influx of grateful applicants.  We have appointed 15 apprentices with half of the group starting work in the mill and the other half going to Gateshead College for the first year of their apprenticeship,” said Marco.

Essity has worked closely with the North East LEP, who advised local schools of the deadline extension and helped the company to target potential applicants during lockdown.

Interest in apprentice places was high this year after the Mill became the first manufacturer in Northumberland to win a prestigious Princess Royal Training Award for its apprentice programme.  Increased demand for toilet roll as well as major donations of product to elderly and vulnerable people, in conjunction with Northumberland County Council, helped to keep the site in the public eye.

It also produced a recruitment video, shown online and in schools across the region, outlining the opportunities apprenticeships can offer school-leavers interested in a career in a global manufacturing business.

The video features young engineers Richard March and Andy O’Neill who were in the same year group at Prudhoe Community High School before joining Essity as apprentices – and went on to become area operations leaders.