A SPECIALIST training provider that has nurtured thousands of North-East engineers is cutting jobs, The Northern Echo can reveal.

South West Durham Training (SWDT), in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, says up to 16 posts could be lost.

Bosses, who employ 44 workers, including lecturers and tutors, say they are carrying out a restructure amid "funding challenges."

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They said any changes will not affect students.

Founded more than 45 years ago, SWDT offers courses across the engineering and manufacturing sectors.

Its stellar alumni of former apprentices includes comedian Vic Reeves, Stewart Wingate, Gatwick Airport chief executive and Caroline Robinson, managing director of Husqvarna, in Spennymoor, County Durham.

The facility also gave Mike Matthews, managing director of Nifco UK, in Eaglescliffe, near Stockton, and Mike McCabe, the former plant manager of Cummins Engines, in Darlington, the chance to cut their teeth.

Trevor Alley, SWDT chief executive, said any changes would not affect its quality of teaching.

He said: “Along with many organisations, we are addressing the business needs of SWDT as we look to the future of maintaining a successful business in an environment with increased funding challenges for classroom-based learning.

“The impetus behind the restructure is to improve effectiveness and efficiencies within the business without detriment to the quality of training at SWDT.

“This does include a restructure, which will focus on developing the strengths of SWDT and which may result in some job losses.

“Exact numbers are yet to be determined, but anticipated to be up to 16 roles.

“There will be no impact on SWDT learners and we are mindful of our employee’s interests.

“We are unable to comment further until the consultation process is complete.”

Earlier this year, The Northern Echo revealed SWDT had ambitions to double its apprenticeship numbers, taking on 200 manufacturing and engineering apprentices every year, after the Government snubbed initial plans for a North-East university technical college (UTC).

The UTC bid, planned for Newton Aycliffe, is headed by the University of Sunderland, and wants to train up to 600 engineers a year.

It has the backing of Hitachi Rail Europe, which wants 730 workers for its train-building factory that will open in spring 2016, and car chassis maker Gestamp Tallent, which plans to create 320 jobs.

Bosses have now resubmitted the bid to the Department for Education.

Mr Alley, a part-time Ofsted inspector, said: “We are right in the middle of Aycliffe Business Park, so we couldn't be better placed.

“If the UTC doesn't happen, employers need an alternative.

“We need to increase our apprenticeships and I want to see a step change in our numbers, which we hope will see us take on 200 a year.”

Mr Alley, who took over at SWDT from Charl Erasmus, revealed he was excited at the prospect of getting more youngsters into work, with SWDT celebrating its highest-ever apprenticeship success rates of 85 per cent, 12 per cent higher than the national average.

He added: “It's an opportune time to be joining as the Government and key leaders form a united approach to safeguard the manufacturing and engineering industry.

“I'm committed to playing an important role in developing the North-East's manufacturing and engineering skills base.”