Read about our leading apprenticeship programme at our Brimsdown site in the UK which is inspiring young people and other local businesses
Johnson Matthey has a long tradition of apprenticeship. In fact, George Matthey, one of the founders of the company, started his career as an apprentice at the age of 13 back in the 19th century. At the Brimsdown site in the London borough of Enfield, an apprenticeship programme was reintroduced in 2010 offering training and experience to young people and inspiring other businesses to do the same.
Responsibility for managing the programme has been given to a retired site manager at Brimsdown, Barry Connelly, who now acts as the company's Corporate Social Responsibility Manager. He was an apprentice himself and went on to work for Johnson Matthey for over 45 years. Every year, the site takes on a number of apprentices; in 2010 Brimsdown hired four apprentices, took on a further eight in 2011 and there are plans to increase the apprentice intake within other areas of the business. There is a strong demand for places, especially since the cost of a university education has risen sharply.
The apprentices spend one day a week at the local Hertford Regional College and the other four days on site where they work in various parts of the business. There is a strong sense of teamwork among the apprentices, and employees ensure that they get hands on training. Being an apprentice is a chance to get a good all round understanding of manufacturing, engineering and office skills, and some go on to become permanent members of staff, with their new skills invested back into the business.
Apprenticeships – once a common way for young people to start their careers in industry – have gone out of fashion in recent years. Johnson Matthey is keen to share its own positive experiences, and Barry Connelly and his team of apprentices also go on the road and visit jobs fairs to spread the message. The aim is to encourage other local businesses to reintroduce an apprenticeship programme.
One initiative was the 100 Club. Johnson Matthey joined forces with the North London Chamber of Commerce to promote apprenticeships in Enfield by launching the '100 Challenge' to create 100 new apprenticeship opportunities in 100 days. A number of large businesses threw in their support, and the target was exceeded when 109 opportunities in various local companies were created.
The success of Brimsdown's programme has gained recognition from UK politicians, including the Mayor of London and the local MP. The Mayor, Boris Johnson, who firmly supports the revival of the apprenticeship system, took a tour of the Brimsdown site in April 2012, and said afterwards:
" It has been an absolute pleasure to… see the great work that is going on here to promote apprenticeships."
Creating an apprentice programme for young people helps ensure that the company has the right skill sets in the business and contributes to a sustainable workforce.