A six-year Tees-Wear partnership that puts young workers on the road to a successful career has recorded its highest ever intake.
Following September’s new 20-strong cohort, Hartlepool College of Further Education and Unipres (UK) are currently training more than 60 apprentices.
Among those to regularly make the trip up and down the A19 wearing recognisable blue uniforms – in a training bus laid on by the College – is the first ever female to qualify as a junior engineer at Unipres.
Megan Gorman, from Shotton, County Durham, is one of the shining examples of how well Hartlepool College and Unipres have combined to get more young people into work and achieve high standards.
Rob Dodds, Unipres’ apprenticeships lead, said: “Unipres UK first approached Hartlepool College in 2017 about taking our Level 3 apprenticeship provision.
“What was different from the start was they asked us what we wanted.
“Working with the College, we designed an apprenticeship programme that suits our needs.
“Today shows the trust and faith we have in the College to provide the level of education and training we require to secure the future talent pipeline to maintain a highly skilled workforce.
“We now have more than 60 apprentices at Levels 3 and 4 and started 20 Level 3 apprentices this year; the highest number of engineering technicians we have taken on in one cohort.
“Our partnership has grown each year and we look forward to working with the College for many years to come.”
There are 15 higher apprentices, 41 maintenance and six die maintenance apprentices. Those regularly jump on the College mini bus from Unipres’ site in Cherry Blossom Way, Sunderland, at 7.15am and start work an hour later; leaving college again at 4.45pm.
Hartlepool College’s assistant principal Gary Riches said: “We are extremely proud to continue our partnership with Unipres. It’s a real coup for the College to work with an international organisation.
“When we first started the partnership in 2017, the apprentices recruited that year lived north of Hartlepool and we now see Hartlepool College students being recruited to Unipres apprenticeships.
“This highlights how we are improving the life chances of people in Hartlepool by giving them opportunities to work with international organisations.
“Unipres has more apprentices with us than any other organisation. This shows that by allowing the employer to choose what training and skills they require it encourages them to heavily invest in its future workforce.”
Megan, 24, has progressed from a Level 3 apprenticeship to a Level 4 higher apprenticeship which includes a HNC qualification involving a day release from Unipres for the last two years.
She said: “I was originally set on A-levels and going to university but the College came along and I realised there was an alternative. Now, these years later, I’m very proud of myself for becoming Unipres’ first ever female apprentice to be promoted to junior engineer in Assembly Engineering since the plant opened in 1987.
“Hopefully that will set the benchmark for others to follow. That would be fantastic.
“I don’t want to stop here. I have enjoyed the studies, the apprenticeship and the work. After finishing my NVQ hopefully I will go on to claim a degree in electrical engineering.”