Gilbert Gilkes & Gordon Ltd, known locally as Gilkes, is an internationally established manufacturing company based in Kendal, employing over 200 staff. Specialising in the manufacture and supply of hydropower products and pumping systems, Gilkes has recently announced that Kendal College is to be the company’s primary training provider for apprenticeships. Here we speak to Manufacturing Manager, Rebecca Sandham about the opportunities for apprentices and meet a few of Gilkes’ current and ex-apprentices.
“When we look at enrolling an apprentice, we look for long term commitment and loyalty,” says Rebecca. “The engineering and manufacturing industries can offer excellent career prospects in some tough and challenging environments. Since running the apprenticeship scheme at Gilkes, the search for great learners relies on their application showing class, charisma and confidence. We run open interviews to give us the chance to get an overall assessment of each candidate in a group environment, which usually showcases their talent in practical activities and captures how much enthusiasm they have to offer. The main elements we are eager to establish are teamwork, communication and respect. “Our apprentices absorb so much and I definitely feel a real sense of pride watching them develop and grow professionally.”
“We don’t just limit apprenticeships to new employees,” adds Rebecca. “We also actively encourage internal employees to learn, develop or hone their own engineering skills. It’s hugely important to us to inspire ongoing professional development amongst all of our employees. The decision to move our apprenticeship training provision to Kendal College was simple. The service we receive from the College is outstanding and we are already seeing our learners reap the benefits. We know that ultimately, apprentices are faithful to their employers and this is hugely important in our long-term succession and business planning.”
Twenty-one year old Abigail Stephenson from Kendal is currently studying a Level 3 NVQ Extended Diploma in Engineering Technical Support and an HNC in Mechanical Engineering with Kendal College at Gilkes. The first female apprentice to be employed at Gilkes, Abigail has taken the surprising leap from ballet to engineering.
“The learning is continuous, both at College and inside the company and I like the fact that it is tailored to how you learn best,” said Abigail. “The experience and knowledge of the people around you is passed on from all different backgrounds and occupations, which for me is highly valuable. When compared to a traditional university route that people of my age are undertaking, I truly believe that an apprenticeship is more beneficial to employers and to my future career prospects.”
Kristian Thompson is also on the Gilkes Mechanical Engineering Apprenticeship Scheme and will complete his apprenticeship in 2017. The 20-year old from Arnside currently works as a Production Engineer. He said:
“You get out what you put in to an apprenticeship and if you make the most of the endless opportunities, you can’t fail to enjoy it. I’ve been on numerous courses and have gained experience and training with various engineering tools such as SolidWorks, other CAD/CAM software and Six Sigma problem solving methodology, which have all helped my understanding and knowledge of the manufacturing industry as well as strengthening my CV.
“Working and learning from experienced engineers on a range of different projects and in different departments whilst gaining qualifications from College is invaluable. I’ve been given the responsibility to work within a project team and present ideas to senior engineers, which has really developed my confidence and I would love to now go on to study a degree in Mechanical Engineering as previous Gilkes apprentices have done.”