Automotive supplier partners with college to roll-out national apprenticeship scheme

Lear Corporation has developed a skills programme with Gateshead College to help the company boost its efficiency and productivity.

(From left to right): Jennifer Jach of Lear, Paul Lockwood of Gateshead College, apprentice Natalia Walas and apprentice Jordan Barrowman - image courtesy of Gateshead College.
(From left to right): Jennifer Jach of Lear, Paul Lockwood of Gateshead College, apprentice Natalia Walas and apprentice Jordan Barrowman – image courtesy of Gateshead College.

A Fortune 500 automotive company is rolling out a UK-wide apprenticeship scheme with Gateshead College, at a time when apprenticeships across the country have declined considerably.

Lear Corporation, which designs automotive seating and electrical distribution systems, says the scheme will help improve the production line efficiency, create safer workspaces, boost morale and reduce costs. More than 100 apprentices in Coventry have reportedly already been working on improving the company’s operations.

The lack of apprenticeships has been a major concern in recent years. The overall number of apprentices fell by 34% in the past year. Since 2010, enrolments for over-25s have dropped from more than 5 million to fewer than 2 million. Engineering has been particularly badly hit, with 68% fewer over-25s are gaining engineering qualifications.

Adam Ford, the company’s continuous improvement manager, said Gateshead College’s extensive experience in national skills programmes was a major reason why they decided to develop a partnership with them, along with the college’s strategic careers partner – Cidori.

He said Lear “wanted to find ways of encouraging our operatives to come forward with suggestions on how to improve not only themselves but the business. That’s why we’ve developed this training programme with Gateshead College and Cidori, to give apprentices the skill set as well as the opportunity to make improvements that will have a significant impact. In the initial phase, we’ve seen a rise in productivity, a reduction in scrap and an increase in staff engagement.”

Furthermore Ford said, Lear has “become leaner and more efficient by reducing downtime and improving quality on the production line…We can grow and develop our UK business while giving our staff the confidence and skills to progress in their careers.”

Lear have now chosen to expand the scheme to operatives and line managers at its other sites across the UK. Aside from its Coventry headquarters, Lear Corporation also has operations in Sunderland, Alfreton, and Redditch. All four sites work on the automotive seating of the business, but only the Coventry office works on the administrative/technical side of the business.

Last year was Lear Corporation’s 100th anniversary, with profits exceeding $1bn – a company record. This is a long way from 2009 when it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in America. Lear is now one of the top 150 companies in Fortune Magazine’s annual rankings.


Reporting by Harry Wise