An engineering apprentice employed at a North Yorkshire gritter manufacturer has described his job as “the best in the world”.
Algimantas Silkauskas was speaking proudly of his role within Econ Engineering – a company with a rich and proud history in employing young apprentices – ahead of National Apprenticeship Week.
Taking place from Monday, February 8 until Friday, February 12, it is a celebration of apprenticeships and is designed to shine a light on the amazing work being done by employers and apprentices across the country. This year’s theme of the awareness week is ‘Build the Future’.
Known as Algis, the 22-year-old joined Econ in January 2019, as an apprentice mechanical engineer, working within the family-owned firm’s machine shop.
In his two years with the company – which manufactures 85 per cent of the winter maintenance vehicles on the UK’s roads – Algis has successfully completed his first engineering qualification and is now studying for an HNC (Higher National Certificate) in mechanical engineering, via a programme at Teesside University and paid for by the firm.
He has agreed with his employer that his academic qualifications won’t stop there. His next step will be an HND (Higher National Diploma) in mechanical engineering, followed by a degree.
Algis’ job involves him manufacturing gritter components on either a mechanical lathe, or, if the order is for a significant number of the same part, on a computer-programmable model. He is also being trained in programming Econ’s new £850,000 Bystar laser cutter, which he describes as a ‘steep learning curve’.
He said: “I’ve always had a fascination with how things work and as a small child I’d take things apart and just stare at the parts. I think I was always destined to be an engineer.
“Being an apprentice at Econ Engineering is the best job in the world and I feel incredibly special. There is no better way to learn, and you get to see everything. You get to find out the tricks of trade.
“For four days a week I’m either learning my trade in the machine shop or being trained on the laser cutter, whilst one day a week I’m at college studying for my engineering qualifications.
“Not every engineering company has an apprenticeship scheme, so I feel incredibly fortunate to have been taken on by Econ. I realise I’m in a very privileged position, and time-served apprentices stand out in the crowd.
“Whilst my job can be challenging at times, I love it, and I’m looking forward to continuing my training journey with Econ.”
Andrew Lupton, Econ Engineering sales director said: “We are proud to offer apprenticeships as we see this as one way of helping to secure the future viability of the UK engineering industry.
“For the UK to compete on a world stage we need a highly trained and motivated workforce, which is what apprenticeships deliver. They benefit both the employee and the employer.
“Algis is the latest in a long line of apprentices that we have trained over the years and he’s proving very capable and keen to learn.
“In the current Covid-19 climate I’d advise school leavers and graduates to look at companies offering apprenticeship schemes for career opportunities, and it’s not just manufacturing companies that offer them.
“What can be better than learning and earning at the same time. Our very first apprentice, who was our eighth employee, has just retired after a 50-year career with us.”