Apprentices go for gold at national skills competition

Apprentices win awards. From left: James Ellis, Kerry Thompson, Josh Russell, James Mason.

Apprentices win awards. From left: James Ellis, Kerry Thompson, Josh Russell, James Mason.

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Four apprentices from a technology firm that is training tomorrow’s engineers won medals at a national competition for those learning their trade.

WorldSkills, held at the NEC in Birmingham, is designed to test the skills of contestants in a range of critical elements that demonstrate excellence in their chosen trade.

Wrest Park’s Automated Technology Group in Silsoe entered four apprentices - who made up two teams - into the competition for the first time this year.

Third year learners Kerry Thompson and James Ellis won bronze in the advanced industrial control category, while second year apprentices James Mason and Josh Russell bagged gold.

Designed by industry experts, the contest enhances qualities valued by employers such as teamwork, time management and working to deadlines.

Training manager Andy Osborn said: “We were quite impressed that we have managed to get these guys to out perform some of the top universities and colleges in the area.

“We have got a big apprenticeship programme here, over 20 per cent of our workforce are apprentices because we need to grow our own skills in the business.

“We have to bring our own through the ranks and the fact that these four have won medals at a national show, shows that we are doing it right.”

They are part of the firm’s advanced apprenticeship programme in electrical and electronic engineering, which sees studying at Bedford College combined with work-based learning at technology group. Apprentices that complete the course successfully are guaranteed a job at the end.

The Automated Technology Group launched its apprenticeship academy four years ago and is currently mentoring 45 apprentices.

The company plans to enter the WorldSkills competition again next year.