Unipres celebrated a historic milestone by launching a project all about its future.

The company used its 30th anniversary to launch a new Training Academy at the Washington plant, that will help upskill employees and provide a classroom for the factory’s apprentices.

A new state of the art home has been created for the Academy, which outgrew its former home at Washington Business Centre, boasting VR crane simulation and welding equipment, specially-created IT-equipped classrooms and direct access to the plant’s manufacturing equipment and in-house expertise.

Stuart Sanderson, Unipres HR manager, and one of 23 current employees who have been with the company since it opened in 1989, said: “For three decades, Unipres has been part of the fabric of North East business, creating skilled jobs and employment opportunities for local people.

“And what better way to mark the milestone of our anniversary at Washington than by making a commitment that will be of huge benefit to our future.

“The Unipres Training Academy, as an Employer Provider, has delivered training to over 50 enthusiastic young apprentices as well as 80 existing staff since it opened just over two years ago. It has helped attract more young females to engineering, opened vital links with local schools and has become a valuable asset in our constant effort to upskill employees.”

Unipres UK opened the Washington plant in 1989, with around 50 employees originally working from pre-fabricated buildings while the factory was under construction. Many of the original workforce were seconded to other Tier 1 manufacturing companies until the Washington plant was fully operational, with some helping install the original machines and build areas of the current site.

The global parts giant, which supplies pressed steel parts to a host of global vehicle manufacturers, now employs over 1,220 – with 865 permanent staff at Washington, and continues to recruit apprentices to ensure it remains fit for the future.

Maureen Askew, senior controller at the Unipres Training Academy and a member of the North East Apprentice Ambassador Network, said: “I’ve been lucky enough to work with some real superstars through the Academy and there’s nothing like seeing them adapt well to new roles around the plant.

“The move into the plant has definitely come at the right time. As a training provider to our new production staff, we have grown from training six people every six weeks to 20 people every three weeks. We were also training six new Production apprentices a year, but that quickly jumped to 15 as well as upskilling existing staff, so suddenly the old base felt a little cramped.

“The new Academy provides us with growing space and the unique ability to immediately access in-house specialist expertise.”

Through its Academy, it operates a robust recruitment programme that includes a proactive schools engagement plan with work experience opportunities, the Unipres Cadets project and its selection as a pilot company for the national T-Level qualifications.

Stuart added: “In 30 years, Unipres has forged an enviable reputation for delivery, excellence and innovation. The aim, through investment in the Academy, is that we build on that reputation so that in 30 years’ time, it’s one of the apprentices currently studying in one of our classrooms that is in my position, outlining their plans for the ongoing successful future of Unipres.”