THE training academy at Darwen metal fabrication firm WEC has been shortlisted in the National Apprenticeship Awards.
The academy, which offers five-year apprenticeships in engineering, fabrication and welding to local youngsters, has been named among the best large companies in the Lancashire, Liverpool and Cumbria region.
Winners at the regional finals in Liverpool on September 11 will go through to compete nationally and WEC’s academy is up against firms such as Rolls-Royce and ITV in the BAE Systems Large Employer of the Year 2014, for companies with 250 to 4,999 employees, category.
The Junction Street firm launched its training academy in 2006 to meet a skills shortage in the high-end fabrication sector.
The company realised it could not grow as quickly as it wanted because it could not find welders skilled to the level required and now, 10 per cent of its total workforce is made up of apprentices.
WEC owner Steve Hartley said: “It is a massive achievement for us to be shortlisted in this category as we are at the smaller end of the scale compared to companies like Rolls-Royce with all the resources they have.
“We put a huge amount of effort and money into ensuring our young people get the best training we can give them.
“It sets them up for a rewarding career in the engineering industry.
“This nomination is a tribute to Kris Mercer, who heads up the training academy, and all the staff who contribute to making it a success year after year.
“We are proud of our young people who themselves put in a lot of hard work to complete their training and education. Our continued commitment is demonstrated by the fact the academy is expanding, providing training in other parts of the business including machining and technical support.
“The plan is to eventually double the intake to more than 20 apprentices per year.”
The WEC Group’s apprenticeship programme allows trainees to work on community projects, such as the manufacture and installation of a new dome for the Darwen Jubilee Tower.
Another high-profile project was the fabrication of a stainless steel Spitfire Memorial Sculpture for Darwen town centre.