Back to the floor

page 10 feb 22 patch pic lead

A COLLEGE boss took time out of his busy schedule to become an apprentice with four east Durham businesses.

Andrew Phillips, vice principal for business development at East Durham College, worked alongside apprentices at Sotech, Mecaplast, Seraph Hair Salon and Whitelea Farm.

Mr Phillips decided to take part in the “back to the floor”-style experience as part of National Apprenticeship Week.

He wanted to see first-hand the positive contribution apprentices make to the workplace but also to experience it from their point of view.

At automative firm Mecaplast, on Peterlee’s North West Industrial Estate, Mr Phillips collated orders and deliveries for a major car manufacturer.

At Sotech, which makes bespoke rainscreen cladding and architectural fabrications and is also based on the estate, Mr Phillips worked at getting an aluminium press ready for operation.

In the afternoon, he helped out at the Seraph Hair Salon, in Peterlee town centre, where fortunately for customers he was prevented from picking up any scissors but much to the amusement of staff picked up a broom to clean the salon floor.

Finally, he visited Whitelea Farm, in Easington, where he met 18-year-old apprentice Tyler Foster whose skills were already a dazzling mix of animal management, machinery maintenance, calving, feeding, bricklaying, fencing and welding.

Mr Phillips said: “I’ve taken many positives away from today.

“Not only has the experience reminded me of when I started out on my own career but also just how important it is to properly train and support young people.

“It’s great to witness first-hand what a fantastic job the apprentices do and see exactly what they can bring to an organisation and the positive impact this has on business and therefore the wider economy.

“All four employers had apprentices at the heart of their growth strategies.

Andrew Cook, 19, from Easington, who is an apprentice with Sotech, said: “I love it.

“I think apprenticeships are mint because I get to earn money while I get a qualification and hopefully a better chance of getting a good job at the end of it.

“It was good fun to show Mr Philips the skills I have learned.”

Sotech operations manager Richard Egginton said: “We take on apprentices because we like to train them from scratch and believe you then get the best out of them that way. “We currently have three apprentices from East Durham College and I can genuinely say they are the best ones we have ever had.”