How commitment to in-house training helped firm establish long-serving workforce

08th Feb

A specialist Hull engineering and manufacturing firm says a commitment to continually investing into the development of new employees has helped it maintain the highest standards – with more than half the workforce having come through apprenticeships.

Paragon Toolmaking, which was established in the city in 1969, has a workforce that boasts many staff members who have been with the company more than 20 years, making a combined total of more than 250 years’ experience.

Incredibly, around 60% of the current 23-strong workforce have come through the firm’s own apprenticeship scheme, which it presently runs in conjunction with Humberside Engineering Training Association (HETA).

The longest-serving apprentice has been with the business for more than 38 years. Three more completed their four-year apprenticeship in January to progress into full-time roles within the business, with a further four currently in the scheme, learning while working at the National Avenue factory four days a week.

Now, to mark National Apprenticeship Week, which runs from February 8-14, the firm has confirmed it is to take on a further two apprentices this year.

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“We’ve always been fully committed to apprenticeships because you really get to develop people and train them in your way of working,” said general manager Kevin Batty (left), who took the apprentice route into engineering himself 40 years ago.

“I’ve always said that apprentices learn the knowledge and skills of engineering, and then over many years they learn the art of toolmaking alongside skilled colleagues.

“As a business you have to be prepared to invest a lot of time in people, especially in the first year of an apprenticeship. However, with the right people, and by giving the support they need, the benefits are huge.

“We find our apprentices really appreciate the support we give them, and in an industry where it can be difficult to find skilled employees, is breeds loyalty which is invaluable.

“We are proud of the combined years of service of our staff, and the many who have come through as apprentices. Their skill and dedication is a major asset and contribution to the continuing success of the organisation.”

Business offers a chance to work on products shipped worldwide

Paragon Toolmaking is a world leader in the design and manufacture of specialist press tools used in industries from aerospace and automotive to the construction, medical, food, pharmaceuticals and white goods sectors.

Its bespoke tools are used in production machines on busy factory floors across the UK and many other countries, helping produce essential parts for some of the world’s best known products and brands, from washing machines and boilers to cars including Jaguar, Aston Martin, Land Rover and Ford.

Being part of such a successful business is a matter of pride for 20-year-old Jacob Mail, who completed his apprenticeship last month and is now a full-time member of the design team. He says the experienced team at the business have helped him every step of the way.

“It can be a bit daunting to come into an established business as an apprentice but everybody here has always been so helpful and willing to show me the processes,” he said.

“I was included in all aspects of work from the start and that enables you to find your place and grow in confidence. To know you are learning key skills, and that you will come out of it with a good job, is really rewarding.”

Josh McGowan, 22, also completed his apprenticeship in January and now works as a CNC machinist. He says he always preferred the idea of learning skills immediately, rather than heading to university.

“The idea of learning a skill and a career appealed to me so an apprenticeship was the ideal route for me,” he said.

“If you are offered an apprenticeship in a skilled job like engineering, it is clear that a business is willing to put the time and effort in to help you learn and become a valuable member of that team, so it is a great opportunity. 

“As an apprentice you need to soak up everything there is to learn. I have found that by working alongside experienced people day to day you pick up skills and knowledge quickly, and then it becomes almost second nature.”

For 19-year-old Jay Malone, this is currently the third year of his apprenticeship, in which he works four days at Paragon and spends one day with HETA.

“I prefer hands on learning so it has been perfect for me,” he said. “It is nice to be at a business where so many people have gone through the same career route successfully. I’ve always been interested in engineering, so it has been a natural route for me and an opportunity I am delighted to have been given.”

Iain Elliott, CEO of HETA, said: “HETA is absolutely delighted to be associated with the Paragon Toolmaking apprenticeship programme ensuring that engineers of the future have the very best opportunity to learn while they earn. 

“Apprenticeships are critical to meeting the skill demands of the sector and ensuring that the workforce has the skills required to meet the needs of local employers. Paragon has a proud and established history of developing their own workforce through apprenticeships and HETA is delighted to be associated with and integral to that success.”

National Apprenticeship Week is held to shine a light on the achievements of employers and apprentices across the country.

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