Thursday, 15th February 2018

Employees at a world-leading battery component manufacturer have recharged their skills by completing a new and bespoke adult apprenticeship programme designed and delivered by South Tyneside College.

Eight manufacturing staff at ENTEK International gained knowledge around maintenance that will allow them to support the company’s engineers in keeping essential machinery operational around the clock, improving efficiency.

ENTEK, which makes polyethylene battery separator material used in the automotive industry, became the first firm to upskill through our pioneering Grow Your Own initiative, which is unique in offering specialised training in-house to existing employees who require new skills.

The US-owned business employs 130 people at Killingworth, North Tyneside, and is now reaping the benefits of the year-long government-funded adult apprenticeship through improved production line efficiencies and better skilled staff.

It was able to pick specific modules of learning within the programme that complemented its exact skills requirements, adding to existing in-house training and progressing employees into new expertise.

Two employees from each of ENTEK’s four shifts took part, gaining a national qualification – and the company is now examining options to repeat the apprenticeship later this year.

Instruction was delivered by South Tyneside College lecturer Scott Franklin, on the production line and in a classroom on-site.

Employees worked in two groups, each receiving around 20 hours of in-house training over two days a fortnight as part of the Level 2 Maintenance Engineering City and Guilds Diploma.

Course modules included carrying out fault location, maintenance activities, restoring mechanical components to usable condition, and handing over and confirming completion of activities.

Functional skills learning in numeracy, literacy and ICT were also included in a programme which has a progression route onto a level 3 qualification.

Brian Dickinson, Lean Manager at ENTEK, said: “The programme has proved perfect to training our operations people to carry out basic preventative maintenance checks during their normal working day.

“It’s been such a great success because of the commitment of our staff and the excellent input and support delivered by South Tyneside College.

“Only one day’s training was missed by one employee, and that was because he was needed to support a factory issue, which shows the high level of commitment to the training from our people.

“The expertise delivered by the college, and the fact all training was at our site, made the whole learning experience easier and more manageable.

“A lot of hard work went into this programme, but it’s been well worth it. It’s great that it’s worked out so well for our workforce.”

Scott added: “From start to finish, this has been a trailblazing programme, one that points the way to how other companies can fulfil their skills improvement potential.

“ENTEK has seen its potential and used it to take people working in manufacturing roles and to train them to support engineers, giving them new and important skills.

“Both the company and its employees took full advantage of this superb free training opportunity, their full commitment throughout was essential to success.

“ENTEK has shown what can be gained by participation in Grow Your Own, and I hope many other employers follow its lead.”

South Tyneside College has a specialist team which works with companies to examine their production processes to see how they can better operate. Businesses are then offered short but highly effective bespoke training to fix problems in key areas.

These focus on quality tools, where inspectors measure product quality, shop-floor problem solving, machinery maintenance processes, and LEAN manufacturing, the method that ensures efficiency of practice.

The team’s work complements current college strengths in manufacturing-relevant skills areas such as CNC, CAD, welding and mechanical and electrical engineering, areas where many companies are experiencing acute skill shortages.

It can also get to grips with a business’s present and future employee skills needs and ensures courses run by the college in subjects such as welding, and machining, match their individual requirements - meaning people are being trained for jobs that exist.

Companies seeking more information on Grow Your Own should contact Ian Fawdon at South Tyneside College on 07971 918 871 or