Automotive manufacturer presses on with further apprentices

North East manufacturer Unipres (UK) Limited has significantly increased the number of apprentices in their programme after helping to save the company thousands of pounds.

The Sunderland-based automotive components supplier will take on 10 new apprentices in September 2012, after recognising the benefits provided and the new ideas generated for the business.

Unipres (UK) Limited currently has 23 apprentices in the programme they developed in partnership with Gateshead College and appreciates the value they can add to the business - they have plans to recruit additional apprentices each year.

This value can be seen in the work of one apprentice, 20-year-old Sam Pascoe, who has developed a new machine tool which is expected to save the company thousands of pounds a year in manufacturing costs.

He used the skills and engineering expertise gained as part of his apprenticeship training to design a new production line tool.

This automatically checks that the screw threads on the special nuts used by the company to produce its automotive components are present, properly machined and designed within the correct tolerances for quality assurance purposes.

The development of this new tool has taken away the need for factory floor operatives to spend hours of time visually checking thread quality, improving production efficiency and generating the cost savings.

Laura Smith, HR Officer at Unipres, said: "Sam is a great example of how we're benefitting from the fresh, new ideas that apprentices can bring and we're delighted to be taking on more as the company moves forward.

"We've found the programme with Gateshead College has been hugely beneficial for both the apprentices and the organisation. The college listened to what we needed from the training and tailored the apprenticeship programme to ensure individuals gained the skills needed by the business.

"Our apprentices have made great progress and, by utilising the skills and knowledge gained in the apprenticeship programme, one apprentice has managed to design a new machine tool to improve efficiency, which will save us a huge amount of money which can be re-invested elsewhere in the business."

The 10 new apprentices will join the 23 existing engineering maintenance and engineering die technician apprentices already at Unipres, which manufactures metal stampings and sub-assemblies for the automotive industry. The company plays a crucial role in the Nissan supply chain in the region and also supplies to other big-name manufacturers such as Honda.

Unipres recently switched its apprenticeship programme to Gateshead College. Joanne Dodson at Gateshead College said: "It is fantastic to be working with companies like Unipres to deliver bespoke apprenticeship programmes which add real value to the business.

"By investing in this type of training, Unipres are ensuring that they are able to build their own workforce to ensure the future strength and success of their organisation."

All of the apprentices work four days per week at Unipres and complete one day at Gateshead College's Skills Academy for Automotive, Engineering, Manufacturing and Logistics at Team Valley. The apprentices all have the opportunity to progress further and complete a Foundation Degree in Maintenance Engineering at University of Sunderland in September.