“YOU could sum it up in one word”, says Ben Gilhespy.

Thankfully, for the purposes of a lengthy feature article, he goes on to provide a few more.

Mr Gilhespy is director of operations at County Durham Engineering and Manufacturing Network (CDEMN), which aims to support companies’ expansion in the two sectors.

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The organisation acts as a go-between for businesses and support agencies and its flagship event, the annual Durham Oktoberfest expo, continues to attract hundreds of exhibitors as it diversifies its offering.

Indeed, this year’s event featured a question and answer session with industry sector bosses for the first time, and CDEMN officials are already plotting additions to 2017’s itinerary.

But CDEMN is much more than a day of festivities in October, and Mr Gilhespy emphasises the point when talk turns to the festive period.

His diary, he says, has appointments right through this week.

Thoughts of a Christmas break, it seems, may just have to wait a little longer.

He said: “We have got 1,000 companies in County Durham and we want to engage with them, all one way or another.

“From the smallest businesses to the big household names, we work with them all.

“We are building a really good engineering and manufacturing community and you could sum up CDEMN in one word - growth.

“We are forming a conduit between companies and the support networks, whether they be funders or educators, and helping with business-to-business contact to better deliver collaboration.

“It’s all about understanding what firms want and what support we can give them.”

That backing, reveals Mr Gilhespy, who has experience of being a board member on the North Durham Engineering Forum, includes work with Business Durham, Durham County Council’s business division, and links with the Rail Alliance, which aims to forge tighter relations between customers and the supply chain.

But it’s not all about sales and orders.

When a company needs workers, CDEMN can help too.

He gives an example of moving apprentices from one company to another, due to the former’s travails, and says it also acts as a look-out when businesses are seeking professionals for senior roles.

But the organisation has grander plans and, says Mr Gilhespy, is in the process of setting up an apprentice hub to tailor training for the needs of industry.

It is already working with the University of Sunderland’s Automotive and Advanced Manufacturing Practice arm to support the launch of an engineering degree apprenticeship.

Yet it hopes to do more, with Mr Gilhespy highlighting further work alongside education providers and companies to show youngsters what opportunities are available and what skills they need to take advantage.

He added: “We want to get a real representation of the needs of industry.

“Rather than having 20 electrical apprentices, there may be a need for five, but there may also be a need for 15 welders.

“The skills gap works from the top to the bottom and it is all about ensuring businesses have that continuity.”