The skills and knowledge of staff at regional employer Banks Mining’s Bradley surface mine in County Durham have been recognised through their latest vocational qualifications success.

Thirteen members of the team at the Bradley site, which sits between Dipton and Leadgate, have completed Level 2 qualifications in Plant Operations via both apprenticeships and stand-alone qualifications.

The qualifications were gained through a combination of on and off-the-job and classroom learning activities which are fully supported in the workplace by employers and their teaching assessors.

They are also 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.

Six apprentices have so far been taken on at Bradley, with all of them going on to secure permanent positions with Banks Mining at the end of their apprenticeships.

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

At the start of last year, 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 and delivery of a bespoke plant operating apprenticeship programme at its North East surface mine sites.

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

“Banks Mining is an inclusive employer who supports all of its staff to continually upskill to meet sector demands and support their own career progression opportunities.

“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 environments in which our teams develop skills and knowledge that they can use right through their working lives, and we’re proud of the commitment that our excellent staff make to taking the opportunities provided to enhance their workplace skills.

“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.”

In November last year, Banks Mining submitted a planning application for a small extension to its surface mining operations on land to the west of the Bradley surface mine which would entail extracting around 90,000 tonnes of high quality coal for supply to UK industrial customers and 20,000 tonnes of fireclay for use by regional brickmakers.

Keith Tarn continues: “We’re continuing to deliver on our commitment to invest in the local community and create employment opportunities for local people through the Bradley site while also helping to meet the UK’s continuing need for coal in the safest, most efficient and most environmentally responsible ways possible.

“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.

“Relying on coal imports rather than using domestic supplies simply off-shores our environmental responsibilities, threatens the jobs of our hard-working, highly-skilled northern workforce, results in increases in global greenhouse gas emissions and distorts the true picture of the UK’s total emissions, which best practice says should be measured not just on what we make here, but also on what we buy in from abroad.”