Minister highlights commitment to apprenticeships

Published:  02 February, 2011

Minister for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning, John Hayes, visited Bentley Motors’ Pyms Lane headquarters in Crewe recently to meet some of the Company’s outstanding apprentices who maintain the high luxury automotive Company’s reputation for excellence.

Bentley Motors has one of the country’s most well-regarded apprenticeship schemes. It places a strong emphasis on the scheme because it believes apprentices represent the future, encouraging young people into the business and developing specific skills through an adult apprenticeship programme.

At any given time, there are approximately 50 apprentices following a three or four year training programme across several disciplines ranging from engineering, manufacturing, wood and leather craftsmanship, to logistics and sales and marketing. Bentley also has a long-established graduate trainee programme with 30 people taking part in a bespoke two-year course that equips them for future management positions.  It also works with several UK leading universities so that current undergraduates benefit from industrial placements.

The success of this commitment to apprenticeships has been recognised across the industry. In 2009 Bentley was named Apprentice Employer of the Year for the North West and finished in the top three places at a national level. Bentley actively supports the National Apprentice Service and individuals have had significant success. One apprentice reached the finals of the “World Skills” vocational competition in Calgary in 2009. Furthermore, another apprentice won the Total People Advanced Apprentice of the Year Award and, in December 2010, received the Mary George Memorial Prize for Apprentices honouring the best female apprentice engineer working in the UK today.

Hayes was therefore keen to see for himself how the Company is able to bring the best out of these people and to produce such iconic cars with a reputation for engineering excellence, quality and craftsmanship.

Speaking of his visit Hayes said: “Bentley is a world class brand, and the company's commitment to its apprentices reflects and enhances the reputation of the apprenticeships programme for delivering world class training.  Employers need increasingly advanced skills to stay competitive, and individuals need top of the range training and investment, both from government and from employers who recognise the immense benefits it brings them.  To meet that need, I am both increasing the funding available for apprenticeships, and increasing the scope and quality of training on offer so that more businesses develop the advanced skills that drive excellence.”

One of the most challenging and useful aspects of Bentley’s programme is the opportunity for apprentices to live and work abroad with other Volkswagen Group companies.  In return, Bentley hosts foreign apprentices from the Group who wish to gain experience of the skills unique to the luxury car sector. In addition, all apprentices are encouraged to spend time on local community projects and charity fundraising activities.

Doug Dickson, Member of the Board for Manufacturing and a strong supporter of the Company’s apprenticeship scheme, said: “Bentley is determined to maintain its reputation as an employer of choice. Fundamental to this is the investment we make in our staff, continually seeking to improve skill levels. This is essential for us to remain a globally competitive, high-value manufacturer and indeed for the UK as a whole if it is to develop a stronger, more balanced economy.

“The Government must encourage people into the industry through apprenticeships and other schemes as well as committing to increased training of those who already work in it. We take the Minister’s visit and his comments regarding the importance of both young and adult apprenticeships as a signal of his intention to prioritise this issue.”

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