Revolutionary contractor model creates opportunities for apprentices in the North East

Revolutionary contractor model creates opportunities for apprentices in the North East  
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Fourteen young apprentices working for Northern Gas Networks (NGN) as part of a revolutionary new contractor model, have just completed their Apprenticeship induction training with Northumberland College.

During an intensive one week induction programme the apprentices gained their SHEA Gas Passport which is essential to work in the gas industry. Training covered key elements such as health and safety, first aid and drug and alcohol awareness sessions.

The apprentices who are employed by five companies, AHUS, Utilergy, USS, CMW and Butler's Construction are following the Level 2 Gas Industry Apprenticeship framework and will attend college on a block release basis, four weeks per year, at a time convenient to the business needs.

Laura Laidlow, Business Development Officer at Northumberland College said: "This is a new partnership between Northumberland College and Northern Gas Networks, whereby the college advertised the Apprenticeship vacancies, carried out pre-screening and shortlisted candidates for vacancies in both the North East and Leeds.

"Over 100 candidates applied for the positions, the college selected the 50 strongest applications and invited them to complete Pre-Apprenticeship training with our employability team. Fourteen were successful in gaining employment in the North East, with a further six employed in Leeds, who will complete their training with Leeds College of Building."

The apprentices are aged between 17 and 24 and are from all over Northumberland, Newcastle and as far as Carlisle.

Graham Edgar, aged 20 from Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, has been employed by AHUS and will be working as an apprentice service layer for Northern Gas Networks, replacing gas services from steel to plastic.

Graham said: "When I found out that I was successful gaining the job I was over the moon, especially when I found out how many others were in the running for it. I grabbed the opportunity with both hands and I'm looking forward to proving myself.

"The induction programme was very interesting, I've learnt a lot and it shows the progression opportunities are there if you work hard."

Bill Lilburn, Utilities Lecturer at Northumberland College, said: "These apprentices are an enthusiastic group and are really excited about the challenges ahead.

"The gas industry is high risk industry, driven by health and safety. Their induction programme has covered mandatory units that they needed to pass before starting in their new roles. The apprentices are adapting well to techniques and understanding procedures."

Gareth Bullen, Director of inspire Academy, NGN's training and development department, commented: "We're passionate about employing, supporting and training local talent.  The majority of NGN's essential gas mains replacement work is now delivered by small, locally run engineering firms and it has huge advantages for our business.  Investment stays in the area, we gain a flexible, responsive workforce who are embedded in the communities where we work, and we deliver improved customer service. 

"We're delighted to be able to work with Northumberland College and support these apprentices as they embark on their engineering careers." 

Northumberland College offers over 40 apprenticeship frameworks and works with over 700 businesses across the region.

Prospective apprentices are encouraged to attend one of the college's regular open events, while employers can find out more by visiting

Northern Gas Networks supply gas to around 2.7 million households and businesses in the North East, Northern Cumbria and much of Yorkshire, transporting it through a network of underground pipes. 

Photo caption:

The photo shows the group of apprentices at Northumberland College, Graham Edgar is front centre (holding tools), Laura Laidlaw is directly behind him. Lecturer Bill Lilburn is third from right in orange jacket.