, an engineering and fabrication specialist, has announced a major apprenticeship recruitment drive at its newly built Engineering and Welding Academy in Blackburn as well as its Knowsley, Rotherham, Coventry, and Sherburn-In-Elmet facilities.
The new recruitment drive will see the company more than double its annual intake of apprentices for 2021, with a total of 53 new apprentice vacancies currently advertised for its September intake.
The announcement comes on the back of a very strong business performance for the Group for the first quarter of 2021, with manufacturing output currently much higher than pre-Covid levels and the company recording its best ever month in March.
WEC Group’s managing director and founder Steve Hartley said: “Apprentices are the lifeblood of any forward-thinking businesses. Since starting our apprenticeship scheme in 2006, WEC Group has grown from 200 employees to over 900, creating a loyal workforce by harnessing fresh talent and skills.
“Our apprenticeship scheme has been extremely successful over the years, and this is why we have decided to forge ahead with our plans to invest around £3 million to build a brand-new training academy in Blackburn, despite the challenging trading conditions over the past year. This will give us the means to create a lot more apprenticeship positions each year and allow us to continue growing.”
WEC Group’s new 25,000ft2
‘state of the art academy is currently under construction at the Walker Park Industrial Estate, adjacent to the company’s specialist machining division. Building work started in August 2020 and current WEC Apprentices fabricated the structural steel work for the building which will be opening its doors in September 2021.
With two classrooms, 33 welding bays, and the very latest metalworking equipment, the new facility will also enable WEC Group to partner with local schools, colleges and companies.Apprenticeships vital to future growth
Mr Hartley added: “We are 100% committed to investing in apprenticeships as they are vital to our future growth and ongoing success. The new academy will enable us to tackle the worrying skills gap which is crippling many engineering companies locally. Apprentices are the most important asset to our business and they remain at the heart of our long-term strategy.”
As a member of The AWFTE (Association of Welding and Fabrication Training and Education) and a TWI (The Welding Institute) certified welder training centre, the new WEC Academy will also give other engineering employers the opportunity to upskill their existing staff, creating a significant boost to skills levels and the local job market.
The academy will also provide opportunities for apprentices based at various divisions of WEC Group across the country and act as an end point assessment centre for other local apprenticeship providers in partnership with TWI.
Kris Mercer, WEC Group’s training manager, said: “We are delighted to welcome more local individuals to our brand-new Apprentice Academy at the beginning of the next academic year. The new facility will allow us to provide high-quality programmes, not only in welding and fabrication, but also in CNC machining, laser and press operations to name but a few.”
The WEC Training Academy originally opened its doors at the Group’s headquarters in Darwen in 2006 with an initial capacity of 6-12 apprentices, and over 200 students have since come through its doors, leading to successful careers in engineering.
Over 50% of WEC Group’s welding workforce in Darwen are current or former apprentices trained in their academy, and the increase in skills levels across the business has allowed the company to win many large international contracts which were previously beyond its reach.
The Academy has also recently achieved Skills and Education Group Awards Centre Recognition Certification, meaning that the new facility will now be able to provide levels 1-3 Engineering Qualifications.
Mr Mercer added: “Receiving the certification means an exceptional amount to us as a Group. Over the past 15 years, we have worked incredibly hard to provide apprenticeship schemes that have an immense impact on the local individuals who join us.
“We have a great team of highly skilled instructors and we look forward to the future of our Training Academy and cannot wait for the new facility to open in September.
“Our next cohort of apprentices will have the chance to learn lifelong skills in a very modern setting, and we would like to encourage any local individuals willing to start a fresh career to apply through our website.”