Digger giant JCB has recruited 170 apprentices and graduates as it steps up investment in its Young Talent programme to record levels.
This year, the East Staffordshire-based company has revealed it is ploughing £7.5 million into recruiting young people into the business to help meet future growth – triple the amount invested in the scheme when it started four years ago.
Of the 168 people who are joining JCB, a total of 117 are apprentices – the biggest ever single intake of apprentices in the 71-year history of JCB.
Bosses said that some will be higher apprentices who will go on to take degrees, learning while they earn and avoiding the need to incur costly student loans. The apprentices started work this week.
It brings the amount the company has invested in its Young Talent programme to £20 million over the past four years – an initiative which has seen around 550 graduates and engineers join the business.
Weaston Gurajena, from Horninglow, has started at the company as a technical apprenticeship at JCB Loadall after completing his studies with the JCB Academy earlier this year.
The 16-year-old studied engineering, maths, English and pre-design. He said: "I wanted to do something where I could be hands-on and have always been interested in engineering.
"JCB is the biggest and best company of that kind around, so it was an obvious choice. I'm really excited to be starting here."
Nadeem Hussain, of Stramshall, has commenced a Level 3 Advanced Engineering Apprenticeship at JCB Backhoe Loader at Rocester.
The 22-year-old said: "At college I studied mechanics and then worked at various garages within the industry. But there really wasn't any room for progress and I felt as if I wasn't going anywhere. This is a quality apprenticeship and gives me the opportunity to keep on earning money while I am learning a new skill."
The 117 apprentices joining JCB are on a range of programmes from Level 2 upwards. JCB said that the latest recruitment drive has seen a significant increase in the opportunities to develop welding and assembly skills which are essential to the UK manufacturing business.
These options are attractive to new employees entering work from education for the first time, or those from other sectors with work experience who are looking to learn a new trade and apply what they have learned through their daily work.
JCB chairman Lord Bamford started his career as an engineering apprentice in 1962 before joining JCB in 1964. He said: "Young people are the future of our company and investing in young talent is vital as the company expands.
"I began my working life as an apprentice and I'm delighted to see a record number of apprentices joining JCB this year.
"It's a fantastic way to learn skills vital to our business, progress to degree-level study and to advance to senior roles in the company."
The number of opportunities to join the higher apprentice programme has also been doubled enabling 20 places to study up to degree level for those who have attained either A-levels or a Level 3 apprenticeship. This programme has been specially adapted to meet the technology needs of the business and supports careers in mechanical, manufacturing and electrical engineering.
In addition, 24 undergraduates with mechanical, electrical, electronic and software skills will also begin work in September along with 27 graduates, from a range of disciplines. They will gain in-depth knowledge of technical and commercial aspects of business operations on programmes which include design, manufacturing, powertrain, purchasing, sales and marketing.
Group training director Alan Thomson said: "JCB is expanding quickly and launching a range of innovative and exciting new products. We are ambitious to grow the business and the record level of investment in this year's Young Talent programme is crucial to our future."
Earlier this year, JCB design engineer Holly Broadhurst was crowned the UK's top Higher and Degree Apprentice. The 22-year-old from Leek, beat off competition from hundreds of other contenders to land the accolade at the National Apprenticeships Awards in London.
Miss Broadhurst joined JCB as a higher apprentice aged 16 after studying at the JCB Academy in Rocester. She went on to take a two year foundation degree before studying for two more years for a BEng degree in mechanical engineering. She graduated last year and now works at JCB Compact Products in Cheadle, where she is part of the team designing JCB's award winning mini excavator range.
She said: "Becoming a higher apprentice at JCB was one of the best decisions of my life and has opened up a great career path for me. The apprentices joining JCB this year have a very exciting time ahead."
The news comes as JCB prepares to open up applications for its 2018 programme on Monday, October 2.
Information about how to apply will be available through the JCB website at www.jcb.co.uk.
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