A major manufacturer of battery components is improving production line efficiency after becoming the first to upskill staff through a pioneering new initiative. ENTEK has embraced Grow Your Own, a bespoke programme that is unique in offering specialised training in-house to existing employees who require new skills. The US firm has enrolled eight manufacturing machine operators at its Tyneside factory at Killingworth onto the year-long government-funded adult apprenticeship. For ENTEK, it means its operators will gain knowledge around maintenance that will allow them to help engineers in keeping essential machinery operational around the clock.
Bosses believe Grow Your Own, which is delivered by South Tyneside College and described as ‘trailblazing’, has vast potential to increase production line efficiencies and support staff in their careers. Brian Dickinson, Lean Manager at ENTEK, said:
“We were able to pick the modules of learning within the programme that were right for us. “Our existing in-house training helps staff with their jobs, but it does not teach these important new skills or lead to a national qualification as this new programme does.
“We see this as a pilot programme for us and we deliberately picked a small group of employees to take part, with two from each of our four shifts.
“We want our operators to be involved in this training so that they are able to do our basic preventative maintenance checks.
“It’s early days and we will evaluate the programme’s success at the end of the first year, but our staff are really enjoying it. It has got off to a very promising start.”
ENTEK, which makes polyethylene sheets that are used as separators to cushion and support batteries used in industry, has a further 35 employees it believes may benefit from the programme. Those currently taking part work in two groups and receive around 20 hours of training over two days a fortnight as part of the Level 2 Maintenance Engineering City and Guilds Diploma. Course modules include carrying out fault location, maintenance activities, restoring mechanical components to usable condition, and handing over and confirming completion of activities. Instruction is given on the production line and in a classroom on-site, with functional skills learning in numeracy, literacy and ICT also included. The programme, which has a progression route onto a level 3 qualification, is delivered by South Tyneside College lecturer Scott Franklin.
He said: “This is a trailblazing programme and points the way to how other companies can fulfil their skills improvement potential.
“It’s a really good model and presents an unbelievable opportunity for companies to improve the skills of their employees.
“The initiative is about taking people working in less skilled roles and training them up to be engineers, and it’s all done in house so is incredibly convenient to an employer.
“It’s free to the employer and it’s flexible, and it will help to plug a skills gap facing the North East in the engineering sector.
“I’m delighted that ENTEK has seen the potential of this exceptional package of support to boost its employees and its own operations.
“I hope other employers will follow ENTEK’s lead and look closely at the benefits the programme can bring.”
It is hoped Grow Your Own can be developed so that a number of businesses in one location all receive training, allowing them to mutually support one another and overcome any workforce or mechanical issues.
Scott works as part of a specialist team at the South Shields which helps companies examine their production processes to see how they can better operate. They are then offered short but highly effective bespoke training to fix problems in key areas. These focus on qualitys 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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org