When bosses at an Aycliffe plastic component manufacturer decided to hire their first ever apprentice they didn’t have to look far to find someone to fit the mould.
Formula Plastics managing director James Goodliffe approached South West Durham Training, who put forward a strong shortlist. After a round of interviews, the successful candidate for the advanced apprenticeship at the firm actually came from their own shop floor.
James explained: “This is our first ever apprenticeship after nearly 20 years in business, and reflects the continuous growth we are enjoying. We have a great team here and this appointment demonstrates our belief in developing skills of all staff to their full potential.
“We chose to work with South West Durham Training as they were clearly the best training provider to meet our needs. When we advertised the role internally we thought perhaps a member of staff would put forward a son or daughter, so were pleasantly surprised when one of our injection mould operators, Simon Hocking, applied himself.
“Simon really stood out; he has been with us for 18  months, has very good GCSEs, has a good work attitude and has shown real drive and spirit by applying for the position. I’m enthusiastic to see Simon develop within the business with the aid of the skills being developed together with South West Durham Training.”
The Aycliffe Business Park manufacturer, which employs 55 staff and turns over £3.5m, is predominantly engaged in the automotive sector as a second tier supplier to leading manufacturers. Products it makes include dashboard components and engine compartment housings for the Nissan Qashqai and Juke.
The Government has set a target of creating three million new apprenticeships by 2020 in a bid to boost skills and end youth unemployment.
In September the engineering training provider, a subsidiary of Bishop Auckland College which employs 27 staff and has over 350 trainees, also welcomed new apprentices from Hitachi, Cummins, Glaxo, 3M, and Cleveland Bridge. All are on engineering/manufacturing programmes with bespoke elements required by their employer, including hydraulics, pneumatics, electrical, fabrication and welding.
Simon, 22, from Newton Aycliffe, whose new role will include machine setting, robotics and the automation of the manufacturing process, will qualify with an Advanced Apprenticeship in Engineering Manufacture after three-and-a-half years.
He said: “As soon as I saw the position advertised I knew I had to put my name forward for it. I’ve been at Formula Plastics for almost two years now – it’s a fantastic company to work for and this was the perfect opportunity to grow and gain experience in the business. My goal is to become an important member of the team and secure a good future. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to prove myself; I look forward to seeing where I can go.”
For more information on South West Durham Training visit: southwestdurham.co.uk

Lee Childs Sam Hocking James Goodliffe Formula Plastics
New apprentice Simon Hocking with Formula Plastics MD James Goodliffe and Lee Childs, South West Durham Training