Wallsend based manufacturer, Barrier Ex comprises of 4 divisions – Electrical Engineering, Hazardous Area, LED Lighting and GRP (Glass Reinforced Polymers). Servicing several markets worldwide they require new skills throughout the business.

Currently employing 5 apprentices, Steve Lee, Managing Director tells us all about what their skills mean to the business.

“Three of our apprentices work within our electrical Engineering division, 1 within Business Administration and 1 within GRP.”

What do apprentices mean to you and your business?

Apprentices are a vital part of the business. We operate in niche markets and so finding staff with the requisite skillsets can often be difficult at times. So, bringing apprentices in and tailoring the skillsets to suit the business is a great solution for us and the apprentices.

What / or how many barriers did you have to overcome to hire an apprentice?

I found the process to be relatively straight forward. We spoke to North Tyneside Council for guidance and they pointed us in the direction of Tyne North Training and Newcastle College Energy Academy who could deliver courses to suit our needs. Both of those organisations were helpful.

We also met with Unipres and Sterling Pharmaceuticals, two large companies dealing with apprenticeships on a bigger scale and they were both very helpful, giving us some valuable insights into the process.

The only barrier we found is that I think it needs to be understood by the employer that Apprenticeships are a two-way street.

So if you want to attract the best candidates then you need to invest some time in “selling” the business to the apprentices also.

There was a bit of time spent in preparing an introduction package for potential candidates but aside from that I found the training providers handled the bulk of the process.

What are your views on the apprenticeship system in North Tyneside?

I think the talent is out there locally based on what we have seen so far. For local businesses out there who want to consider taking on apprentices then I would say within the North Tyneside area there is an excellent pool of talent. The support is there to get you on your way.

How important are new skills and upskilling existing staff for your business?

New skills and upskilling staff are very important to our business. That is why we have a bespoke training programme for each of our staff which is regularly updated. The market is changing all the time with new technologies and new innovations. Quite simply if we do not invest in our staff we will get left behind.

What is the one thing you’d do to improve the apprenticeship system?

The overhaul of the apprenticeship system is a work in progress and will take some time, but it certainly needs a lot more flexibility. On the evidence of what I have seen myself so far, I would say there needs to be improved dialogue from the government with the smaller employers and a clear focus on maintaining the highest standards in training programmes.

North Tyneside Business Forum set up an Apprenticeship Working Group earlier this year to tackle the issue of apprenticeships, training and the complicated landscape for businesses in North Tyneside. The group would now like to find out more about the demand for apprentices and skills across North Tyneside from the local businesses which recruit local talent in the area. On 15th October, we’re holding “What’s your views? Apprenticeships and Skills” at Accenture, Cobalt Park – find out more by visiting the event page

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