Chamber boss swaps jobs at Spennymoor manufacturer

Mar 21, 2016 | Regional Business

Mike Matthews MBE, President of the North East Chamber of Commerce (NECC) and MD of Stockton-based Nifco UK, rolled up his sleeves and stepped back in time to learn at first hand what skills today’s apprentices are learning at the Tridonic manufacturing plant in Spennymoor.

This ‘job swap’ to celebrate National Apprenticeship Week and NECC Training’s support of North East businesses, saw Mike turn his hand to tool-making, machine maintenance and quality control of some of the 20k lighting control units which are produced at the factory every day.

He started his career as a toolmaker apprentice 31 years ago at Nifco, the company he now runs and is passionate about developing practical skills in the workplace. He said: “I see it as a huge badge of honour to be a skilled man. We know the importance of apprentices to our businesses and work hard to ensure that, not only do they have the right skills, but that we keep them once they are trained.”

Tridonic’s management team are equally committed to an ambitious apprenticeship programme, with seven people learning skills with the business at present through NECC Training.

As part of his time back on the factory floor Mike Matthews met three apprentices.

The first one he shadowed was Anthony Lowery, 36, a new product and production apprentice. He specialises in automatic optical 3D inspections where he checks machines for defects and explained to Mike how the process works to ensure all products are at the right standard.

Quality control is of a paramount importance to Tridonic and Nifco alike and Jonathan Betts, 31, outlined his own role in this field in the second part of Mike Matthews’ apprenticeship tour.

The third apprentice Mike Matthews met was 55 year old Peter Johnston who has worked for the company for 38 years, starting straight from school. Before his new training he was a store supervisor but was encouraged to apply for the maintenance apprenticeship.

Andrew Robson, Head of Training, NECC Training, one of the region’s largest training providers, works closely with companies includingTridonic to identify how an apprentice can help their business and then sets up their learning programme.

He said: “We have worked closely with Tridonic for six years and advise them, as we do all our business clients, on the best training and development plan for their apprentices. For this company we have supported nine apprentices, ranging from level 2 apprentices in Performing Engineering Operations up to level 3 apprentices in Technical Support, Engineering Maintenance and Electrical and Electronic Engineering. Our expertise enables us to ensure a company gets the very best from their apprentices, with the right engineering pathway to deliver exactly what they need for their businesses success, right from initial fact-finding and helping to identify skills gaps, through to assessing competencies over the whole apprenticeship.”

Mike Matthews said: “Tridonic’s approach to apprenticeships is business gold. They are using their whole, positive company culture to close the skills gap and ensuring they don’t have shortages in any particular field by developing existing employees. It is a great example of a tight knit operation and one that is giving something back to the community.”