It's National Apprenticeship Week and we recently caught up with Kevin Downer and Garry Hernes of GKN as part of 'Employer Tuesday' to find out more about why they value Apprentices in their industry.

How many apprentices do you currently have within GKN Isle of Wight? Which areas do they work in and which apprenticeships are they undertaking?

We currently have 43 apprentices at GKN Cowes. They are either working within in a Manufacturing, Engineering, Program Management or Human Resources role.

They are working towards one of the following Apprenticeship Standards: Level 3 Engineering Fitter, Level 3 Engineering Technician, Level 4 Engineering Manufacturing Technician, Level 4 Associate Project Manager, Level 5 HR consultant Partner or Level 6 Manufacturing Engineer (Degree).

Why are apprentices important to your business?

They are the future workforce, who bring innovative ideas, which in turn allows us to incorporate the latest technology into future bids, to secure new work for the site. They also underpin the planned aerospace growth that we see in the market moving forward.

What have you identified as being the benefits and positive impact of recruiting apprentices within your organisation? Benefits to the business, individuals, and wider economy?

One of the main benefits of being an apprentice is learning ‘on the job’, from highly skilled and experienced colleagues, as well as gaining formal qualifications throughout and getting paid while you learn; without having to travel to the mainland.

From a business perspective, it supports GKN’s Cowes succession planning process, by continually training people and allowing them to progress into more senior roles if they wish to do so. For example, many former apprentices have progressed their careers to become team leaders and managers; or continued to study and obtained qualifications with professional bodies.

In turn, this helps GKN Cowes maintain a highly skilled and talented workforce and keep a multi-national company on the Isle of Wight, employing circa 900 people

How has recruiting apprentices helped to future proof your organisation?

Starting the apprentice process now, which takes circa 4 years, is our way of planning for the future aerospace growth. This strategy is for the long term and will enable us to achieve our resource and skill plans across multiple disciplines that the business sees long term demand for from manufacturing, engineering and support roles

Would you recommend apprenticeships to other businesses/individuals?

Kev Downer Response: Yes! As a former apprentice myself, I would highly recommend apprenticeships to other businesses and individuals. By undertaking a 4 year technical apprenticeship, it allowed me to transfer into the Manufacturing Engineering Department, where I got to work on several new contracts. This allowed me to work with customers such as Airbus and Boeing; whilst travelling to several different countries to either work at the customers’ facility or with our suppliers. During this time, I was also given the opportunity to continue with my technical qualifications, where I obtained an MSc. Today, I use all the knowledge and experience that I have gained over the last thirty years at GKN, to manager our Apprenticeship & NVQ programmes.

Garry Hernes Response: I think an apprenticeship is an amazing way to learn and develop with your employer in a safe learning environment. From my own personal experience, my apprenticeship has allowed me to become a qualified engineer, carry out my degree studies and learn many aspects of the business. I have progressed through multiple management levels based on the skill I learnt during my apprenticeship to become the Director of the Cowes Site. In my role I now run a truly global business, making technology led products, employing nearly 900 people, of which over 60 will be apprentices during 2023.

Click here to find out more about becoming an apprentice through the Isle of Wight College