Apprenticeships Can Engineer Skills for the Future

Posted on the 15 March 2018

Apprenticeships Can Engineer Skills for the Future

An engineering giant has championed an innovative training scheme as a way of boosting the uptake of apprenticeships and helping the region’s manufacturing industry build sustainable workforces for the future. 

Ford Engineering Group has joined forces with Gateshead College to deliver a six-month traineeship which equips young people with the attitudes, skills and knowledge required to start an apprenticeship in this sector.

As a result of the programme, Ford Engineering has been able to strengthen its skills base with the recruitment of four talented apprentices.

Three seventeen-year-olds – Reece Bell from Washington, Matthew Reilly from Jarrow and South Shields teenager Kieron Drew – will work at Ford Aerospace in South Shields, where they will learn key skills in precision machining, tooling and product quality control. 

A fourth engineering apprentice, 16-year-old Liam Rowden, will ply his trade at North Shields-based Ford Components, which supplies pressed components to the automotive sector and related industries. 

Matthew said: “I’ve really enjoyed my time at Ford Aerospace so far. The traineeship has given me the initial skills, experience and confidence I needed and now I can continue to learn my trade on the shop floor whilst earning a wage.”

Liam is one of 28 candidates who will shortly complete the programme, which equips trainees with core skills and competencies needed for key engineering tasks such as preparing and using milling machines and lathes, and producing mechanical engineering drawings using computer aided design (CAD) technology. The programme also covers health and safety, work preparation methods, and literacy and numeracy skills which allow students to gain essential English and maths qualifications.

As part of the traineeship, the students embark on a four-week work placement which provides valuable experience of a real-life engineering environment and are given the chance to secure a formal interview at the end of the programme. They study at Gateshead College’s purpose-built Skills Academy for Automotive, Engineering, Manufacturing and Logistics, which has benefited from a recent investment in state-of-the-art, cutting-edge machinery and tooling equipment. 

Ford Engineering and Gateshead College run the traineeship to help manufacturing and engineering firms tackle skills shortages and create sustainable workforces for the future. The scheme also allows Ford Engineering to create a work-ready pipeline of talent for its apprenticeship programme, with places reserved for the best candidates who demonstrate their skills and aptitudes on the traineeship. Those who don’t get a place on the programme are supported by the company in their attempts to find an apprenticeship with another engineering firm.

Geoff Ford MBE, chairman at Ford Engineering, said: “I’m a firm advocate of apprenticeships. The engineering and manufacturing industries need an influx of new skills, which is why we teamed up with Gateshead College to run the traineeship – a vital stepping stone to progress onto an apprenticeship.

“It’s great to work with an organisation that understands the needs of our business and the wider engineering sector. Schemes like this will help to protect the future of the industry, boost the economy and prepare more young people for the world of work.”

Ivan Jepson, director of business development at Gateshead College, said: “Securing an apprenticeship can be difficult for some individuals and this intense training programme provides students with the opportunity to get the skills, experience and qualifications they need to become an apprentice.

“Our aim is to help employers build workforces which make their businesses more productive and competitive. This is particularly important for the engineering sector, which has traditionally suffered from key skills shortages.

“We work with forward-thinking employers, including Ford Engineering, to help them plug skills gaps and access skills that can generate business growth. In doing so, we also introduce more young people to the world of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and give them the tools to forge a successful career in these industries.” 

This is the latest milestone in a long-standing relationship between Gateshead College and Ford Engineering. The college runs apprenticeships at Ford’s sites across the region, and has also managed a project to upskill its employees and provide them with exciting engineering career opportunities.

To find out more about Gateshead College and the courses on offer, visit