West Fraser has been giving local 16+ year old school leavers the opportunity to complete apprenticeships at the Inverness, Cowie and South Molton sites.
As is common with apprenticeships, the new starters can expect on-the-job training combined with day release to a local college. At West Fraser, apprentices train for mechanical and electrical engineering roles.
At Cowie, West Fraser’s apprentices complete a 26-week programme of intensive hands-on practical training at MetTECH in Grangemouth. This is designed to give them solid broad-based engineering skills in preparation to embark on planned periods of on-the-job training at West Fraser. The apprentices also attend Forth Valley College one day per week to complete a National Certificate (NC) in mechanical or electrical engineering before going on to gaining their HNC in third and fourth years.
Gordon McArthur, Engineering Manager at Cowie, recognises the value of the apprenticeship programme, having started in the company as an apprentice, and now overseeing the latest recruits. “The programme has served us incredibly well over the years” said Gordon. “Apprentices who have come through the system now make up over 50% of the maintenance/engineering workforce and many go on to supervisory roles. In fact, three of our four maintenance supervisors at Cowie served their apprenticeships here”.
Gordon explained that the programme provides the opportunity to train apprentices to work with confidence on the complex systems and processes on site and is the ideal answer to the challenge of recruiting staff with the exacting skill set and experience required in such a specialist industry. For Gordon “the best part of the programme is seeing the change in the apprentices as they grow in confidence and skill level over the four years”.
Inverness also started nine new apprentices in November. After completing the four-year apprenticeship and obtaining satisfactory examination results, the majority are employed on permanent contracts. In fact, 11% of the current workforce at the Cowie facility started their careers as a West Fraser apprentice.