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Training centre celebrates 45th anniversary
A SPECIALIST training centre has been celebrating 45 years of nurturing engineering talent in the North-East.
North-East comedian Vic Reeves, and Stewart Wingate, the chief executive of Gatwick Airport are among the thousands of engineering apprentices who cut their teeth at SW Durham Training (SWDT) on Aycliffe Business Park, County Durham.
The facility, that specialises in courses for the engineering and manufacturing sectors, held a reunion event on Tuesday attended by alumni such as Mike Matthews managing director of Nifco UK in Eaglescliffe near Stockton, Caroline Robinson, managing director of Husqvarna in Spennymoor, and Mike McCabe, the former plant manager of Cummins Engines in Darlington.
The event offered former graduates, many who have gone on to become leading lights in UK engineering, the chance to meet the latest crop of trainees.
Charl Erasmus, former head of operations at SWDT who has now become the centre’s chief executive, explained how the facility was helping to safeguard the region’s proud engineering heritage.
“The celebration event was a chance to enjoy a bit of nostalgia while also recognising the achievements of our class of 2012,” he said.
“We estimate that about 10,000 trainees have benefitted from the facility, so its impact both here in the North-East and throughout industry has been significant. We are County Durham’s best kept secret and part of today is to remind people that we are continuing to meet the needs of companies in the 21st century.”
The centre, which last year opened a £3.6m state-of-the-art extension, produces about 100 apprentices every year and delivers short courses to hundreds of adult learners.
The event included a speech from former SWDT apprentice Gareth Berry, who is now vice-president of Electrolux Major Appliances, and from Terry Scuoler, chief executive of EEF, the manufacturer's organisation.
Mr Berry said: “I am pleased to have been part of the event, and to have had the chance to return to SWDT where I trained all those years ago. What was most exciting was the opportunity to speak to apprentices - to motivate and inspire them and hopefully show them that with the right work ethic, an apprenticeship can set them on their way to a fantastic career.
“The team at SWDT really instilled a strong work ethic in me, and that has stuck with me right through my career, more than 20 years on. I really do believe that apprenticeships offer a great balance between academic and practical skills, and as a result, they produce well-rounded employees with experience and aptitude that sets them apart.
“My involvement in the event was really about showing people that there shouldn’t be a limit – and with apprenticeships, there really aren’t any.”