Caterpillar hails apprentices

THE FUTURE: Durham County Council leader Coun Simon Henig accepts a mini Caterpillar truck from apprentice Scott Smith
THE FUTURE: Durham County Council leader Coun Simon Henig accepts a mini Caterpillar truck from apprentice Scott Smith

A LEADING manufacturer has paid tribute to its apprentices who have played a key role in the company’s success.

Caterpillar, in Peterlee, is one of only a handful of companies in County Durham employing more than 1,000 people, and recently expanded further with the appointment of 10 new apprentices.

In addition, a further 10 young people will benefit from a bespoke intensive welding course ensuring the company – which plans to invest £5m into its North West Industrial Estate plant next year – has a skilled pool of supply staff on hand when required.

During a site tour with Durham County Council’s leader, Councillor Simon Henig, Caterpillar’s plant manager Phil Handley said: “Operating our own apprenticeship scheme means we have a ready-made skilled workforce equipped with all they need to help maintain our position as market leaders in the production of articulated trucks.

“We now have 37 apprentices and I am delighted to say our workforce is back to pre-recession full strength, with hopes high of further growth in the future.

“As a business which is both committed to the area and which has benefitted significantly from the council’s support I am really pleased to have had the opportunity to show off what we do.

“It was also a chance to say that we recognise the real passion amongst the staff we employ and acknowledge that our continuing success reflects the pride they show in what they do.”

Coun Henig added: ”It is wonderful to hear of the company’s ambitious plans to invest a further £5m in its Peterlee plant next year and to get the chance to meet just one of the many apprentices benefitting from Caterpillar’s proactive approach to training.”

Caterpillar apprentice Scott Smith, 21, whose father has worked for the company for 33 years, is three years into a four-year apprenticeship in fabrication welding.

Scott said: “Getting this apprenticeship is the best thing I have ever done.

“Now I hope to progress through the company right up the ladder.

“One day hopefully I’ll take Phil’s job.”