A speculative letter to a leading Lancashire engineering firm has led to a determined Accrington school leaver becoming the company’s youngest ever employee when he starts his apprenticeship in September.
The Blackburn-based drives and controls specialist, Optima Control Solutions Ltd (OCS), was so impressed with James Entwistle it is taking the youngster on as its first apprentice when the 16-year-old leaves school in September 2011.
In response to growing cross-industry demand for greater production efficiency, and the consequent interest in its engineering skills and expertise, OCS has also recently added two graduates and an experienced engineer, Tony Coyne, to its workforce. Building on both its immediate and future skills capacity guarantees that OCS will be able to continue helping manufacturers cut costs and boost competitiveness for a long time to come.
OCS’s joint managing director, Michael Hill, has previously highlighted the potential damaging impact the lack of young engineering talent could have on his company’s plans for growth and on the UK’s future manufacturing prospects as a whole. He is convinced apprenticeships are one way forward to attracting the next generation of skilled staff.
He said: “My company has a great reputation within industry. We have a highly skilled, highly motivated and loyal workforce but, as an engineering company, recruitment proves to be one of OCS’s most testing issues and, with an ageing skills base, we need to be able to draft in younger engineering talent.
“Apprenticeships are the best environment for prospective new engineers to gain the right skill sets and experience.”
Mr Hill had been in contact with Training 2000, the North West’s largest independent work-based learning provider, but revealed it was a unsolicited letter from James that led to the youngster being giving the opportunity to join the team at the flourishing engineering company.
He added: “I was impressed with his letter so I called him, asked him to come and meet us and within 10 minutes of our introduction I was in no doubt that he had had the right grounding to become our first apprentice.”
James revealed that he had sent letters to 12 engineering companies in the region, but only Optima replied. He added: “I have always been interested in engineering and how things work. It started with Lego and Meccano before I moved onto computers. I was on holiday with my parents when Mr Hill advised me I had the job. It was great news and I can’t wait to start.”
Semta, the sector skills council for science, engineering and manufacturing technologies, recently published research showing that 30,000 skilled engineers are needed in the UK each year until 2016 to fill the gap of highly skilled workers reaching retirement.
By turning to apprenticeships OCS is taking steps to boost its source of engineers so that it has the right skill sets in place to ensure its continued development and competitiveness.