One of the region’s largest automotive suppliers is set to work in partnership with Sunderland College to engineer careers.

Unipres, a Washington-based automotive supplier that manufactures pressed metal parts, has entered into a partnership with Sunderland College, that will see a commitment from the two organisations to work together to meet future skills needs.

The agreement was signed as Unipres prepares to explore innovative new ways of bringing through its future employees, with companies across the country now gearing up for the introduction of the apprenticeship levy.  The agreement between the two organisations will see them working together to recruit new talent through a pre-employment programme, developing new and existing staff through apprenticeships, and the co-delivery of training for Unipres employees.

John Cruddace, director at Unipres, said: “We are seeing huge policy change when it comes to apprenticeships, and we are preparing our business to ensure we take advantage of the opportunities these changes present us.

“Part of taking advantage of those opportunities is finding a partner who can support us long into the future, and we have found that in Sunderland College.  We want to develop the best people; the most talented, highly-prized employees to lead Unipres into the future, and we know that the college has an excellent track record in delivering that.  We’re looking forward to growing our partnership with them.”

Stuart Sanderson, HR manager at Unipres, said: “This is not just about the convenience of the college’s location, but about the organisation’s values and commitment to being the best.  There were real synergies between Unipres and the college, and it feels like a very natural partnership, and one that we believe will greatly enhance local skills.”

The college works with a number of manufacturing and advanced engineering businesses including Komatsu and Caterpillar, and currently has 400 engineering students signed up to its programmes with aspirations to pursue a career in the sector.  These students are based at the College’s new City Campus, which opened last September. The campus boasts industry standard facilities with over £700,000 invested in manufacturing and engineering equipment.

Sunderland College is also part of a skills partnership that is set to support the region’s automotive sector, should plans for Sunderland and South Tyneside’s 100-hectare International Advanced Manufacturing Park (IAMP) be given the green light.

Ellen Thinnesen, principal and chief executive at the college, said: “Like Sunderland College, Unipres is a forward thinking company, where values clearly matter and their firm commitment to building a high quality, skilled future workforce is a key priority.  I am delighted that our strategic partnership will support Unipres in building on their already outstanding reputation as a top class Sunderland based company.

“The company’s approach to the new apprenticeship levy has been really refreshing; this is a business that is embracing change, and is using the benefits of Government policy to strengthen their workforce development strategies now and over the coming years; like Sunderland College, they are ambitious for the future. The partnership could not be better suited.”

The college offers a range of courses linked to the manufacturing and engineering sectors, and also works closely with businesses in these fields to support with office-based roles, including IT and finance.

Since arriving in Sunderland in 1987, Unipres has invested £180 million in its plant. Just last year, two new presses at the Sunderland factory went live in a £13m investment programme.  As well as supplying Nissan, Japanese-owned Unipres produces parts for Renault and counts Honda among its many clients.