Three young people from South East Northumberland are moving up the career ladder after successfully completing a three year apprenticeship programme with a regional employer.

Jake Adkins from New Hartley, Max Anderson from Red Row and Owen Carr from Ashington were recruited by Banks Mining in 2015 to fill plant mechanic apprentice positions at its Shotton and Brenkley Lane surface mines near Cramlington.

The three new recruits have since undertaken a three-year training programme which offers qualifications up to NVQ Level Three and helps the apprentices develop a wider range of skills and knowledge that they will be able to use throughout their working lives.

Each apprentice has received direct training and mentoring from experienced members of the Banks Mining team, and has also rotated across different functions to help widen the range of skills they’ve been able to develop.

Jake, Owen and Max have all now taken on permanent plant mechanic positions and will continue to receive appropriate training and personal development opportunities as their careers with Banks Mining progress.

As well as on-site work, the apprenticeship programme has included a comprehensive study and training programme at Northumberland College, with which Banks Mining formed a recruitment and training partnership in 2012 as part of its continuing commitment to providing direct benefits to the community through its local operations.

The company makes a range of equipment on site available to the College, including engines, hydraulic systems and excavator buckets, which reflects the equipment with which the apprentices work on a daily basis, while visits to plant dealerships and suppliers are also arranged to help broaden the apprentices’ plant knowledge.

Around 120 people work at the Shotton site, alongside a further 50 at Brenkley Lane, and the two sites jointly contribute over £35m every year to the regional economy through wages, investment and the local supply chain.

The coal produced at the two sites is used for a wide range of purposes, including steel and cement manufacturing, heating residential properties and energy generation, while the fireclay mined there is an essential component in the manufacture of house bricks.

Banks Mining has a further four apprentices at different stages of their training programme, and the company’s next wave of apprentices are set to start on site in the near future.

The family-owned firm is currently awaiting a decision by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, James Brokenshire, on whether its planned Highthorn surface mine in Northumberland can go ahead.

Robbie Bentham, plant director at Banks Mining, says: “Providing young people with the chance to develop practical workplace skills is an essential undertaking for both long-standing businesses like ourselves and for the sustainable success of the wider regional economy.

“Our apprenticeship programme helps recruits gain skills that will serve them well while they’re working with us, as well as right through their working lives, and it’s especially pleasing for us to be able to give young people from local communities this chance to start building successful careers for themselves.

“Banks Mining has been providing people in the North East with the chance to build long-term careers and support their families through our mining operations for more than four decades, and we all hope that the Secretary of State will now make a positive decision on our Highthorn planning application quickly, so that we can continue with this essential work and reduce the UK’s reliance on Russia for meeting its continuing need for coal.

“Jake, Owen and Max have all been highly committed to and very enthusiastic about our apprenticeship programme, and it’s been very pleasing to see them develop both as mechanics and as people over the last three years.

“We’re glad to see them now moving up to the next level and to have them setting an excellent example for the apprentices that we hope will follow in their footsteps in the future.”