Champion of apprenticeships

It’s quite an achievement when a business can boast that almost a third of its staff are apprentices. But Quick Hydraulics managing director Andrew Esson is a champion of apprenticeships in engineering.

Since leading a management buy-out of Quick Hydraulics three years ago, the Aberdeen and North Shields company boss has continued to recruit new young people to the business and now has 10 apprentices among a 35 strong-staff.

Mr Esson started his own career as a graduate engineer with Weir Pumps in the 1980s and became general manager in 1996. But he recognises that university isn’t for everyone, particularly after recent figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) showed a 7% drop-out rate among students within their first year.

While respectful of the skills successful graduate engineers bring to industry, Mr Esson is also an enthusiastic supporter of schemes like the Scottish Government’s Modern Apprenticeship programme, which aims to enrol 30,000 new apprentices by 2020.

“It is up to the private sector to lead the way with apprenticeships so we can bring young professionals into our industry and tackle the shortage of skilled people,” Mr Esson said.

“As engineers we also have a responsibility to promote our profession so that young people, teachers and parents have a better understanding of the scope and skill of professional engineers across industry.”

UK Government figures show a record number of youngsters are now taking up apprenticeships. There was a 43% increase in the number of apprentices taken on in the UK between 2010 and 2013 – and a record 860,000 apprentices last year.

Yet people with engineering skills are dwindling at an alarming rate. According to the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology 90% of firms in the maritime and oil and gas market are struggling to recruit professional engineers.

“At Quick Hydraulics we have successfully moulded our own professionals and we have found our apprentice workforce is eager and open to learning and acquiring practical skills,” Andrew Esson said.

“They don’t arrive with preconceptions about what we do and how we do it and we find this helps us develop them as individuals and as competent professional engineers. My own belief is that spending time training and improving the skills of your people helps create leaders of the future and engineers you can rely on.”

One of Quick Hydraulics apprentices, 22-year-old Dale Tansley joined the company straight from college where he had been ‘Most Improved Student Engineer of the Year’.

“Someone like Dale is confirmation that it is worthwhile investing time and training in young people,” Mr Esson added.

“He entered the industry two years ago with boundless enthusiasm and an eagerness to learn everything he could about our business. He now has great confidence dealing with clients, handling costings and design solutions. He has great commercial awareness alongside engineering skill and has an exciting career ahead of him.”

Dale’s been a key participant in the Primary Engineer Scheme, a national initiative to give primary pupils experiencing of engineering and problem solving, using maths, science and technology.

Quick Hydraulics is an enthusiastic supporter of this programme and Dale visited a local school and helped children design and build their own vehicle.

“I think when you are able to endorse young people like Dale for awards like this it gives you great pleasure and pride in their achievements. It’s a fitting reward for investing in young people and their future.”

After completing a range of engineering modules, Dale is about to due to begin a B.Sc top up degree in Management of Engineering Technologies (Project Management).

“It all goes to show that taking up an apprenticeship doesn’t preclude adding a degree to your CV at a later stage in your career,” Mr Esson said.

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