Companies working in manufacturing have been told to take on more adult apprentices, after one Wearside company found great success through a bespoke partnership made with a local college.
According to storage vessel maker Wessington Cryogenics, businesses and the government should both be doing more to address the skills shortage in manufacturing fields by creating a greater number of vocational opportunities for adults.
The company has 15 apprentices currently on its payroll, including nine who are over the age of 24. As a result, it is calling on ministers to ensure that funding for the upskill of older workers is not cut as it believes this would be to the detriment of competition.
According to the Journal, Wessington Cryogenics' own bespoke apprenticeship scheme in Performing Engineering Operations is geared towards fastracking the development of staff who are 25 and older. Simon Bowman is the first graduate from the scheme and has also completed an in-house traineeship programme.
Speaking to the newspaper, he said: "My job is much more interesting now, to be honest, and my training has led to a promotion and a good payrise."
The scheme is open to all staff and has benefitted five other workers to date, including two who are currently enrolled in the apprenticeship despite being in their 50s. The programme focuses on training on the essentials of fabrication, welding and machining, as well as supporting modules on topics involving health and safety.
Gill Southern, director of the firm and member of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership board, believes that there is a lot of work to do to bridge the manufacturing skills gap - but that apprenticeships for older adults can play an important role in doing so.
"What we need is a blended approach that includes more apprenticeships for people over 24," she was quoted as saying. "We lobbied extensively for the retention of funding for this age group and I'm glad to say that the government has listened to us. Skills development for the over-24s is still available for companies that need it."