A £700,000 training academy is to be opened in the West Midlands tomorrow at the national headquarters of the sole UK dealer in Caterpillar.
Finning (UK) is to unveil a purpose-built facility at its Cannock depot which will provide budding young engineers with bespoke training programmes in plant repair and maintenance covering all Caterpillar products.
Nineteen apprentices are to benefit from the Finning Academy in its first year of operation.
Service training manager Paul Lawson said: "We've always taken apprentices here, from not long after the facility opened in the 1960s.
"With the skills shortages we are experiencing today, we have found it difficult to recruit young engineers so we decided to overhaul our existing apprenticeship programme.
"The new training framework will take three years instead of four and is now all in-house, broken into 16-week modules - the first eight spent learning a particular skill set in the academy and the second eight spent practising and demonstrating proficiency leading to NVQ certification in those particular skills in a genuine work-based setting.
"The new model - a Caterpillar scheme called Think Big - focuses specifically on the business needs of Finning and Caterpillar rather than the apprentices going to college and learning broader, generic engineering skills.
"By providing a training programme that is led entirely by business needs, we are confident we can get the skills and confidence of our apprentices to a higher level more quickly."
David Poole, a partnership manager at Staffordshire Learning and Skills Council, said: "The LSC and Finning UK have worked in partnership for several years to deliver high quality training opportunities through our national apprenticeship programme.
"They are an excellent employer, achieving top class success rates in the training they provide.
"Their new academy serves to highlight this commitment to their apprentices' development and we look forward to continuing our joint work to address the skills shortages and recruitment challenges faced by Finning UK and the construction sector more widely."
Cheryl Sanders, aged 18 from Cheslyn Hay in south Staffordshire, said: "I've worked at Finning for two years and I'm really getting on well. I've already got an NVQ Level 2 and, after I finish my apprenticeship, I want to get a couple more years on the shop floor under my belt before maybe moving into product support where I'm developing customer relations skills with clients.
"I've wanted to go into engineering since I did work experience in a garage when I was 16. "I know some people think it's an unusual
career for a young woman but I've never thought about it, really. In the end, it's about how hard you work and the skills you have and I'm really pleased with the way I'm learning."
Chris Osborne, aged 16, of Cheslyn Hay, said: "I did quite well in my GCSEs but I knew I didn't want to stay on and do A levels. I wanted to start working and developing real life skills - not to mention have a bit of money in my pocket."