Digger-maker JCB has today announced the recruitment of almost 170 apprentices and graduates as part of a £7.5 million investment.
The Rocester company launched its Young Talent Programme four years ago to help meet future growth.
Now, after trebling the amount of money it has put into the scheme, it has taken on 168 new recruits who started work this week.
Of those who have joined, 117 are apprentices – the biggest ever single intake in JCB’s 71-year history.
Among them are Stoke-on-Trent brothers Matt and Mark Gilbert.
Father-of-two Matt has enrolled onto an engineering apprenticeship at JCB Loadall.
The 27-year-old, of Meir Park, said: “After school I trained as a mechanic and have held jobs with the RAC and also been a coachbuilder. For the last five years I have actually been working with JCB but decided to go on the apprenticeship to extend my knowledge and build my career.
“The fact I can still be taking home a salary is what really swung it for me – I have a three-year-old boy and a one-year-old daughter so I need to make sure they are secure.”
In total, JCB has spent £20 million on its Young Talent programme since 2013 with around 550 graduates and engineers joining the business.
Chairman Lord Bamford, who started his career as an engineering apprentice in 1962 before joining JCB in 1964, said: “Young people are the future of our company and investing in young talent is vital as the company expands.
“I began my working life as an apprentice and I’m delighted to see a record number of apprentices joining JCB this year.
“It’s a fantastic way to learn skills vital to our business, progress to degree-level study and to advance to senior roles in the company.”
In addition to the apprentices, 24 undergraduates with mechanical, electrical, electronic and software skills will also begin work next month along with 27 graduates, from a range of disciplines.
Group training director Alan Thomson said: “JCB is expanding quickly and launching a range of innovative and exciting new products. We are ambitious to grow the business and the record level of investment in this year’s Young Talent programme is crucial to our future.”
Earlier this year JCB design engineer Holly Broadhurst was crowned the UK’s top Higher and Degree Apprentice.
The 22-year-old, from Leek, beat off competition from hundreds of other contenders to land the accolade at the National Apprenticeships Awards in London.
She graduated last year and now works at JCB Compact Products, in Cheadle, where she is part of the team designing the mini excavator range.
Holly said: “Becoming a Higher Apprentice at JCB was one of the best decisions of my life and has opened up a great career path for me. The apprentices joining JCB this year have a very exciting time ahead.”
JCB is now preparing to open up applications for its 2018 programme on October 2.