An award-winning North East business where go-karting is part of the creative process has hailed the positive impact of apprenticeship training.
Labman manufactures customised robotic solutions for industrial, medical and laboratory applications - and with a demanding clientele, their apprentices need to hit the ground running.
So as well as taking charge of projects early in their careers, they also enjoy possibly the most funky office in the region, complete with climbing wall, karting track and even a squash court in soon-to-be-completed building extension.
Senior manager Jamie Marsay said: “Because we provide a customised service and solutions, creativity and invention is a huge part of what we do, and we’ve created a fun workplace where that kind of energy can be fuelled.
“Our apprentices are also given plenty to get their teeth into, right from the start – we entrust them with responsibility, supported by senior managers, and they often lead projects of their own and handle big budgets.”
This approach has led to Labman winning the apprenticeship category at the recent North East Business Awards. The company, which is based in Seamer, Stokesley, also gained a national nomination for people development from the British Chambers of Commerce.
Northern Skills Group – formed recently by the merger of Middlesbrough College and NECC Training – delivers training for Labman’s ten electrical-mechanical apprentices, who spend one day a week with them.
The organisation looks after more than 2,000 North East apprentices, who study skills ranging from engineering and accountancy to hospitality, customer service and leadership/management.
Jamie said: “Northern Skills Group look after the theoretical knowledge that our engineering apprentices need, which sits side-by-side with the practical training we give them.
“Some of our apprentices decide to specialise, but most do a broad training that takes in everything from CAD 3D drawing to mechanical engineering to electronics and project management.”
The company chooses to work with Northern Skills Group because of the training organisation’s flexibility and willingness to help forge apprenticeships that meet Labman’s particular needs.
“We find Northern Skills very adaptable and positive towards tailoring the training to what we and the apprentices need,” said Jamie.
“At Labman, we are very much about tailored learning, and our Northern Skills training adviser visits our apprentices once a week, and he is very responsive to what they need.”
With engineering skills in short supply across the UK, Jamie is so keen on apprenticeships that he visits local schools to encourage young people to consider engineering as a career.
“For us, apprenticeship is a very long-term strategy,” he said. “In effect, we’re growing our own talent pool, and it’s working – many of our apprentices have gone on to be project leaders.”
“It’s good for the region, too, because it means people don’t have to leave the area to find the kind of jobs that we offer.”
Jordon Bowes, an apprentice mechatronics engineer at the company, said: “Within Labman I am responsible for many different roles and responsibilities.
“The company allows me to push the boundaries of my knowledge and work in a variety of areas.”
Northern Skills Group lead Peter Wilson said Labman sets a fine example of how a good apprenticeship strategy can help a company achieve its ambitions.
“Labman certainly shows the value of investing in apprentices, and the company’s recent award was well-deserved,” he said.
“By taking on and training apprentices with our help, they are constantly developing a team that is skilled enough to provide the extremely specialised bespoke services they offer to customers.”