Warren Page (in white shirt) with Xtrac apprenticesAutomotive transmission specialist Xtrac, a company demanding high level skills from its employees, continues to provide a benchmark for high quality apprenticeships. The award winning company was invited to discuss its training scheme with Members of Parliament back in 2008, when the Apprenticeship Reform Bill was being drafted. The company’s head of human resources Jane Gilham attended the meeting and the National Apprenticeship Service, responsible for this week’s National Apprenticeship Week, was launched the following year.

    “Our apprenticeship programme has long played a vital role in the development of skills essential to the success of our business,” says Gilham. “It also provides a natural progression for school children wanting to develop a career in engineering and many of our apprentices go on to become graduate engineers within the company.”

    Xtrac doesn’t just wait for 16 and 17 years olds to apply for an apprenticeship, but is actively involved in developing initiatives for school children to interest them in a technology career. The company offers work experience to Year 10 and 11 students attending local schools and participates in factory visits and career fairs aimed at Year 9 students onwards.

    “Apprenticeships are good for business,” says managing director Peter Digby. “Well trained apprentices improve profitability and help the company to compete in a global market. Xtrac exports more than half of what it manufactures, so I do agree with the many experts who consider apprenticeships essential for the UK – and very necessary if we’re to maintain our position as a world leader in high performance engineering design and manufacturing.”

    The company works closely with Newbury College who help deliver the engineering qualifications and have also been in the vanguard of delivering work-related training in Berkshire and the Thames Valley region.

    Since 2008 and the founding of the National Apprenticeship Service, Xtrac has trained a total of nine engineering apprentices with a 100 per cent successful completion rate. It currently has four vacancies and has received more than 80 applicants for each position.

    After formal induction into the company, each apprentice spends the first 16 months of their programme experiencing all areas of the business under the watchful eye of apprenticeship coordinator Warren Page, who supports each apprentice for the duration of the programme and also helps to ease the transition from school to full time employment and study. The remainder of the training focuses on a particular part of the business ranging from skilled CNC machining and process management to the assembly of high precision vehicle transmission systems. The programme combines on-the-job skills training and college attendance.

    Established in 1984 Xtrac has become a world leader in the design and manufacture of gearboxes, differentials and driveline components, which are used throughout international motorsport and in particular within F1, IndyCar, Touring Car, Rallying, Rally Raid, GRAND-AM and many forms of sportscar racing including a major involvement in the Le Mans 24 hours, Daytona 24 hour and Sebring 12 hour races. The UK business operates its global headquarters from a hi-tech factory in Berkshire, plays a significant role in the UK motorsport industry and is in the forefront of hybrid and electric vehicle transmission innovations for many international automotive companies. Further information on Xtrac is available at www.xtrac.com.