Washington car parts firm Unipres opens new £500,000-plus training academy

Car parts firm Unipres' latest development is a real class act.

Friday, 10th March 2017, 5:00 am
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 10:01 am
Unipres Apprentice Academy launch. Apprentice ambassador Rhys Goulden

The firm has recreated parts of its own production line at a new site down the road in order to train its staff .

The Unipres Training Academy was officially opened by Washington and Sunderland West MP Sharon Hodgson, in a ceremony attended by business and civic leaders, as well as a host of former and current apprentices.

Unipres Apprentice Academy launch. Apprentice ambassador Rhys Goulden

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“Unipres is an integral player in our automotive industry and I have been incredibly impressed with the company’s focus on apprenticeships and proactive approach to developing its future workforce,” she said.

“This Training Academy is equipped with the exact machinery, software and processes that are used across the company and much of the industry, so the recruits produced at this fantastic new facility will be work-ready and raring to go.”

The new facility, in the Washington Business Centre on Turbine Business Park, will support eventually well over 100 apprentices a year, including new and existing staff.

HR manager Stuart Sanderson said the firm had invested more than half a million pounds,000 in making the academy as realistic a recreation as possible of the main plant.

Sharon Hodgson opens the new Unipres Academy, watched by Sunderland City Council deputy leader Coun Harry Trueman and Unipres plant operations director John Cruddace

It boasts production equipment including robots and even a virtual reality welding system which analyses performance and provides feed-back to helps apprentices improve.

“We are trying to replicate the plant and mimic exactly what goes on the production line,” said Stuart.

“It will allow us to create apprenticeships for new and existing staff and train them in an environment that is as close as possible to the actual shopfloor, but without the pressure of the production line.”

“We also want to capture those young people and offer them a chance to be trained up and gain qualifications and hopefully a skilled job at the end of it.”

Sharon Hodgson opens the new Unipres Academy, watched by staff and Sunderland City Council deputy leader Coun Harry Trueman and Unipres managing director Gary Graham and plant Operations director John Cruddace (front)

Unipres apprentice ambassador Rhys Goulden said: “It is a great idea.”

Unipres Apprentice Academy launch. Plant Operation Director John Cruddace
Unipres Apprentice Academy launch. Apprentice Daniel Richardson
Unipres Apprentice Academy launch. Apprentice ambassador Rhys Goulden
Sharon Hodgson opens the new Unipres Academy, watched by Sunderland City Council deputy leader Coun Harry Trueman and Unipres plant operations director John Cruddace
Sharon Hodgson opens the new Unipres Academy, watched by staff and Sunderland City Council deputy leader Coun Harry Trueman and Unipres managing director Gary Graham and plant Operations director John Cruddace (front)
Unipres Apprentice Academy launch. Plant Operation Director John Cruddace
Unipres Apprentice Academy launch. Apprentice Daniel Richardson