Gateshead manufacturer uses apprenticeships to achieve turbo-charged growth

A manufacturing company in Gateshead is using apprenticeships to upskill seven of its workforce into team leader and managerial roles, as it continues to grow international operations in several sectors including transport, energy, industrial and defence.

Turbo Power Systems has a team of over 110 people and designs innovative high-speed machines and power electronic solutions for brands including Bombardier Transportation, Alstom Trains, Wabtec Rail and Daikin.

To help some of its engineering and logistics-focussed personnel to become more operational and business-minded, Turbo Power Systems has partnered with award-winning, apprenticeship training provider, Access Training.

Nicola Johnson, HR advisor at Turbo Power Systems, explains: “After significant change within the organisation, in which we made some new staff appointments and promotions, we wanted to support team members as they transitioned from very technical roles.

“When Access Training approached us about the programmes and explained that apprenticeships could be used for current staff, not just new starters, we were keen to get involved. We felt this kind of training would not only enhance their skills but help keep the company working efficiently, especially in light of a challenging order book.”

Since September 2016, five Turbo Power Systems employees have been undertaking a level two team leader apprenticeship and two have followed the level five higher apprenticeship in management.

The level two apprentices have been developing their skills in the areas of planning, allocating and monitoring the work of a team, supporting team members, managing conflict, resolving problems, project management, agreeing budgets and managing customer service.

Simon Lowes, a logistics supervisor, has been with Turbo Power Systems for three years. Currently undertaking the level two team leader apprenticeship, the 26-year-old from Jarrow, says: “I have great ambitions to grow within the company and I’m really enjoying the team leader programme. I’ve been given more autonomy because of the training and made new introductions to day-to-day operations and structure, to ensure things work more effectively and my team is fully briefed on their role and requirements.

“From a personal perspective too, it’s great that the company is investing in me. I have a three-month-old daughter and really want to work my way up the career ladder, so I can be a good provider for my family.”

Delivered through a mixture of on and off-the-job training, the level five apprentices visit the state-of-the-art Access Training Skills Academy once a month for knowledge training and are working towards a CMI (Chartered Management Institute) diploma in leadership and management.

George Skidmore, 55, has worked with Turbo Power Systems since 2002. The engineering implementation manager has nearly finished his level five higher apprenticeship, which is equivalent to a foundation degree.

He explains: “The training is really useful in enhancing the managerial skills I have developed over the past 15 years; I particularly enjoy the day-release sessions and working with like-minded trainees. This sharing of skills within the group and networking really helps to put my own workload and position into perspective and, the guidance from Sue at Access Training has been invaluable.”

Sue Tomlinson, trainer at Access Training visits the apprentices every three to four weeks to assess progress through observation, discussion, written statements and testimonials. Sue concludes: “The team at Turbo Power Systems has really propelled itself into the training and I’ve seen marked improvements in functional skills – assessed in maths, English and ICT, as well as improved confidence in roles. It’s great to see how their training is being put into practice to the wider benefit of the company.

“At Access Training, we source, recruit and train quality apprentices for hundreds of high-profile North East companies; supporting the development of their people with the aim to grow their businesses.”

Malcolm Armstrong, managing director at Access Training, adds: “With the introduction of the apprenticeship levy many employers are looking at using apprenticeships to develop their new and inexperienced managers. We are already seeing increased demand from levy and non-levy payers. Plus, we have a new course for higher apprentices due to start in September and are also looking at delivering bespoke management apprenticeships for large local companies, utilising their levy funds.”

As well as apprenticeships in management and team leading, Access Training offers programmes within social media and digital marketing, accounting, business administration, customer service, manufacturing, warehousing and IT. The company is also the only regional provider of the fire, emergency and security systems apprenticeship.