A PROPERTY and energy firm has invested in creating a new County Durham training academy to help ensure it has continuing access to a skilled team of plant mechanics.

Family-owned business The Banks Group has converted facilities at its Thrislington depot into a new classroom and conference facility that will act as a dedicated base for its plant mechanic traineeships and upskilling programmes.

The eight-week mechanical traineeship is planned to run up to three times a year and will act as a talent identification process and feeder for the company’s plant apprenticeships programme.

Successful candidates will be offered longer-term training programmes to develop the technical skills needed by its plant management team and Banks Plant Solutions subsidiary.

Banks worked with Ixion Holdings, a subsidiary of major UK employment and skills charity The Shaw Trust Group, on the construction of the new training facility and engaged 11 people from Spennymoor, West Cornforth and other parts of County Durham through Ixion’s Legacy Project employability scheme to help carry out the work required under the supervision of the Banks project team.

The Legacy Project is designed to give the participants essential skills leading to the attainment of a Construction Plant Competence Scheme (CPCS) card through their work, which will help them in their efforts towards finding jobs in the construction and allied industries, as well as an NVQ Level 2 qualification that was gained through a mixture of modular and practical assessments.

One of the Legacy Project team members has already secured a position on the Banks Mining plant team, while the details of the others are being kept on file in case any suitable vacancies arise in the future.

Jacqueline Oughton, managing director at Ixion Holdings, says: “We are delighted to have been able to support Banks Mining with what is a hugely-important legacy project.

“We have supported local people in gaining essential skills in the construction sector which will help them move towards and into work, and will be working with every one of them to help them find roles in their chosen occupation, while the legacy that this work leaves is essential to driving future skills development."

Keith Tarn, group human resources manager at The Banks Group, added: "We're continuing to invest in creating and sustaining skilled jobs right through our different divisions, and had identified a particular issue regarding the training opportunities available within the wider heavy plant mechanic sector which are essential to our operations."