A LAWNMOWER maker has committed its future to the North-East after taking on its first apprentices for six years.
Husqvarna, in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, is recruiting young workers over the next three years.
The company, which makes Flymo garden equipment, says it will take on two apprentices every year, working with Aycliffe-based training provider South West Durham Training (SWDT).
Electrical and mechanical apprentices Scott Maclean, from Darlington, and Nathan Bresnen, of Seaham, County Durham, both 18, will join Husqvarna next month.
The move is a major boost for the region's manufacturing's sector and the Swedish firm's North-East future, after bosses previously revealed plans to close its research and development centre and send about 40 skilled jobs abroad.
The company employs about 240 permanent North-East workers and has 420 temporary staff.
Joe Storey, Husqvarna’s facilities manager, said: “One of the problems we have is finding the right skilled people to do all the work we want to do.
“You can end up with someone who’s really good with electrical but not very good on mechanical, and vice-versa.
“What we want to do is train these guys to the level we want so they’re competent in electrical, hydraulics, pneumatics and mechanical, so we get the best of everything.
“The last time we took on apprentices was six years ago, when we felt that we had enough people and the skills, but then through skilled people retiring, being promoted or leaving us, we’ve suddenly found ourselves with a skills gap.
“That's why we’ve put this programme together to take on two apprentices this year, next year and another two in 2016.”
Mr Maclean said his training has already provided him with new skills.
He said: “We are learning electrical principles, such as how to wire up panels, and also the mechanical section of taking apart a milling machine and putting it back together.
“This is a really good opportunity for me to start my career and work up to get a full-time job.”
Mr Bresnen added: “It’s a good way of learning and getting the knowledge because you are not just understanding why things happen, you are actually doing it.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and a chance to go on to a higher education.”
Bosses at SWDT specialise in training engineering and manufacturing apprentices, working with firms such as Tata Global Beverages, which has a tea factory in Eaglescliffe, near Stockton, and Aycliffe car parts maker Nifco UK, also in Eaglescliffe.
Jeremy Cannon, business development co-ordinator, added: “This is a great opportunity for the apprentices and we are delighted to be working with Husqvarna on delivering skilled workers.”