Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 09.20.34APPRENTICES at a North East excavator manufacturer are digging deep for success as they continue to win regional awards.

Komatsu UK Ltd, based in Birtley, is celebrating the achievements of its apprentices as one of its workforce claimed Student of the Year from The Welding Institute (TWI) for the second year running.

Aaron Kirkbride, 19, from Washington, said that receiving the award was the perfect way to finish the final year of his welding apprenticeship.

He said: “It’s always great to be rewarded for hard work, but to win this award twice is just amazing. I couldn’t have won the TWI Student of the Year award without the help I’ve had from all the staff at Komatsu, from those in HR to those on the factory floor.”

Aaron said that he had considered going to university but chose an apprenticeship to gain the hands on skills he knew employers would be looking for.

“I know I have a good future ahead of me thanks to the skills and knowledge I’ve gained through this apprenticeship. Being an apprentice at Komatsu has been an incredible three years. Everyone is so supportive and I’m very thankful for this fantastic opportunity”

Aaron has now completed the three-year course provided by TDR (Training and Development Resource Limited) that included training at South Tyneside College and at TDR, as well as within the factory to gain hands-on skills. He has now been appointed as a welder at Komatsu.

Tracey Wilson, senior HR manager at Komatsu, said that the success of its apprenticeship scheme has been the reason the business has provided apprenticeships for nearly 30 years.

She said: “We are dedicated to taking on apprentices because we know how valuable they are. The majority of our apprentices stay with us, progressing into permanent roles in welding, assembly or paint spraying. Many of our previous apprentices have progressed into more senior positions too in areas such as Design, Quality, Test and Development, Purchasing and Production Control.

“Komatsu UK’s apprenticeship scheme is a way of safeguarding the future of our business by ensuring we have the skilled people necessary to step into new roles. But we are also committed to safeguarding the future of the region’s engineering skills pool.

“We’re proud to say we have provided apprenticeships for nearly three decades and we would certainly urge more businesses to look to apprenticeships as the industry nationally faces a skills gap.”

Komatsu UK currently has 23 engineering apprentices, including five who started their training in September.

James Ramsbotham, chief executive of the North East Chamber of Commerce, one of the region’s largest independent training providers, said that businesses in the region should be taking note of the success of Komatsu and its apprenticeship scheme.

He said: “Komatsu UK is a shining example of how businesses in the North East should be working to address the skills gap. Through its apprenticeship scheme Komatsu is able to train workers with the skills that it needs, giving it the ability to address its own skills shortages.

“Apprenticeships mean hands-on learning, and organisations like Komatsu who are embracing that are reaping the rewards of giving these youngsters the chance to learn in the real working environment.”

Apprentices at Komatsu UK have also previously achieved awards from the Engineering Employers Federation Northern Region and South Tyneside College.

For more information on Komatsu UK and its apprenticeship scheme, visit www.komatsu.co.uk