Smith Electric Vehicles expands apprenticeship programme

The company behind the UK's first Electric Vehicle Apprenticeship is expanding its intake this year. 

Leading commercial electric vehicle manufacturer Smith Electric Vehicles Europe Ltd (Smith) is recruiting an additional six apprentices at its plant in Washington, Tyne & Wear. It follows the company's successful launch of a dedicated EV Apprenticeship scheme in 2010, in partnership with nearby Gateshead College, when it recruited six apprentices. 

Doug MacAndrew is Vice-President of Engineering & Development for Smith Electric Vehicles Europe - and also sits on the North East regional council for Semta, the sector skills council for science, engineering and manufacturing technologies.

"It is essential for the UK to invest in STEM education and apprenticeships if we are to maintain and build on our capability as a technology leader in low carbon vehicles," he said. "This challenge is significant, with an estimated 8,500 new recruits being required between 2011 and 2016 in the North East alone to replace those expected to retire in the sector.

"Smith Electric Vehicles is very encouraged by the value our current apprentices bring to our business and look forward to continuing our programme in 2012 and the future.

"The recruitment of apprentices is a key part in the development of critical skills within our emerging sector. As a demonstration of this, one of our first EV apprentices is now working on our advanced development of vehicles and working towards a university degree, while and another has taken on a lead role in our battery production facility."

While the company's first intake focused on EV production roles, the class of 2012 will be deployed in a range of disciplines, including service engineers and back office staff, quality, design engineers and business administration. 

Lindsay Middleton, Semta National Manager for the North of England, said: "Smith Electric Vehicles is a great example of how apprenticeships deliver employment and training to young recruits that is structured to the key needs of both the individual and the business.

"They offer a real alternative to the university route for training - and with the creation of the advanced manufacturing apprenticeship framework can lead to the same qualifications."

Smith produces electric vehicles for depot-based, predictable route, multi-drop applications. Customers include Sainsbury's, TNT, DHL and John Lewis. Quiet and clean, these vehicles are ideal for deliveries in residential areas, emit no air pollutants at the point of use and reduce CO2 emissions from transport.  

The company has developed a training strategy as part of its continuous improvement programme. It placed two staff, including one former apprentice, on undergraduate courses in 2011 and all production line employees have successfully completed NVQ Level 1 and Level 2 training in Manufacturing Improvement. Furthermore, Smith has recruited four graduates into work-based MSc courses.

Mick Brophy, managing director of business, innovation and development at Gateshead College said: "An apprenticeship is an excellent way to ensure you gain the valuable skills a company requires while being able to give something back to an employer who's prepared to invest in your future.

"Gateshead College is among the best in the region for success rates for apprenticeships - to date, more than 4,000 apprentices have completed their programmes thanks to the specialist support and training we provide.

"And we've supported hundreds of employers, like Smith Electric Vehicles, to help them to meet their needs through tailor made programmes to train young people for the workplace."

Working in partnership with Gateshead College, Smith Electric Vehicles launched the first EV Apprenticeship Programme in 2010, with an intake of six apprentices. The four-year course combines workplace training at Smith's factory in Washington, Tyne & Wear, with education at Gateshead College.

Learners complete a Level 3 framework in the nationally-recognised course - the equivalent to three A Levels. Apprentices gain practical, work-based knowledge and skills through an NVQ Level3 in Engineered Systems and a City & Guilds Level 3 in Engineering, along with functional and key skills. They will then have the opportunity to progress onto a Foundation Degree in Engineering, Maintenance Operations or Electric Vehicles.

Notes to Editors

About Smith Electric Vehicles
Smith Electric Vehicles Corp. ( develops, produces and sells zero-emission commercial electric vehicles that are designed to be an alternative to traditional diesel trucks, providing higher efficiency and lower total cost of ownership. Smith's vehicle designs leverage more than 80 years of market knowledge from selling and servicing electric vehicles in the United Kingdom.  Smith Electric Vehicles produces the Newton™ and the Edison™. The company operates manufacturing facilities in Kansas City, Missouri and outside of Newcastle, UK. The Smith Newton™ truck is available in 7.5t, 10t and 12t gross vehicle weights. The 3.5t Smith Edison™ is available as a chassis cab, panel van and minibus.