Driving up North East automotive skills

June 2, 2016

From pioneering technologies in electric vehicles to inspiring the next generation of engineers, Gateshead College is a driving force in skills development for the North East’s automotive industry

The region’s automotive industry boasts a significant reputation for investment in research and development and new and emerging technologies. Demand for skilled engineers is at an all-time high, and industry body, the North East Automotive Alliance (NEAA) has projected that an additional 10,000 new jobs will be created by 2026.

Gateshead College has an unrivalled track record in supporting the industry. It has been developing its automotive specialism since 1984 and during that time it has launched the UK’s first electric vehicle apprenticeship, created world-class training programmes for national and international companies and played a key role in policy development.

In partnership with UK and internationally renowned companies Nissan and ElringKlinger, Gateshead College is providing training and up-skilling programmes that meet the needs of the employers now and in the future.

Working with strategic partner Amacus, it is supporting global automotive supplier ElringKlinger as the organisation sets out on an ambitious development programme to up-skill its entire workforce over the next three years. The company is investing almost £800,000 in skills and training for 270 staff at its Redcar factory in preparation for growth which is expected to double the size of the business in the next five years.

A bespoke training programme has been developed to meet ElringKlinger’s business needs and objectives while ensuring that the course is flexible enough to keep up with the latest advances in the automotive industry.

Ian Malcolm, managing director at ElringKlinger, explains: “The courses were designed in such a way that we could deliver them on-site, meaning completion of such a large-scale training project can be done without impacting hugely on the daily operation of the business.”

Gateshead College has been Nissan’s trusted training partner for over a decade, supporting the car manufacturing giant to develop a unique training programme that hits every area of the business. Nissan’s prestigious apprenticeship programme takes employees through the levels to a degree-equivalent qualification and is continually adapted to focus on practical workshop time to develop advanced engineering skills such as the design and production of electric vehicles.

Nissan apprentice, Stephen McCarron, 20, from Wallsend, started a five-year apprenticeship in September 2015 after deciding the academic route at university to become an engineer wasn’t for him. Stephen is completing his training at the college’s Skills Academy for Automotive, Engineering, Manufacturing and Logistics, based at Team Valley in Gateshead.

The hands-on learning programme is helping Stephen to hone his skills in everything from electrical installation, electronics and circuits and mechanical work to welding and computer aided design (CAD). In addition, the course offers him the opportunity to develop softer employability skills to help him to make the transition from education to a work environment.

Stephen says: “I’ve always wanted to train as an engineer and thought that university was the only option for me. I soon decided that the academic route was too focused on theory and that I’d like to work more on my practical skills.

“Taking up the apprenticeship is the best career move I could have made. I’ve progressed far quicker than I would have doing a degree and an added bonus is that I’m earning a wage while doing it.”

As well as setting the wheels in motion for the next generation of automotive engineers, Gateshead College has a pivotal role in developing the UK’s low-carbon vehicle technology.

Zero Carbon Futures (ZCF) is an internationally recognised electric vehicle consultancy, set up as a subsidiary of Gateshead College. The organisation works with businesses, universities, government bodies and sector agencies to ensure that the UK is able to maximise the benefits of the low-carbon vehicle sector. It is also the lead for the innovation strand of the NEAA.

ZCF manages a wide range of projects including working with major electric vehicle (EV) manufacturers, Nissan, BMW, Renault and Volkswagen, to roll-out a new EV infrastructure across the UK. It has also partnered with Elm EV to launch EV Works – a service which supports organisations or public bodies to prepare for the mass uptake of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.

It’s projects like these, combined with high quality training and workforce development programmes, that continue to build the college’s reputation for excellence in the automotive industry in the UK and beyond.

Ivan Jepson, business development director at Gateshead College, says: “The expertise of the automotive industry in the North East is something that we’re hugely proud of and our work will continue for decades to come. This will ensure that businesses have access to high quality engineering professional training that will help them remain strong and competitive.”




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