16. June 2014

Bishop of Durham is apprentice for the day

News Release:


Bishop builds bridges with business and throws backing behind apprenticeships

FOR a man who conducts most of his business from the pulpit and the House of Lords, the The Right Revd, Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham proved a dab hand with a plasma cutter after signing up for an NECC apprenticeship.

Bishop Paul took on the role of engineering apprentice for the day with North East Chamber of Commerce member IK-UK, of Newton Aycliffe, to promote the importance of apprenticeships to North East business.

It was a far cry from robes, sermons and a constant stream of meetings, but Bishop Paul was learning from the best and was soon working the water jet and plasma cutting machines, manufacturing base plates on a lathe and assembling pipeline “pigs”.

The “pigs” in question are designed and manufactured by IK-UK, which employs 47 people, including four NECC apprentices. These purpose-built pieces of equipment are made from polyurethane and steel and used primarily in the oil and gas industry to clean pipelines.

“When I was offered the chance of an apprenticeship by James Ramsbotham (NECC Chief Executive), I was very keen to try something in engineering,” said Bishop Paul. “It is a genuine North East industry strength and it is something I have always held an interest in, so to have the opportunity to try my hand at it was something I could not refuse.

“What I will take away from this experience is what an impressive bunch the apprentices are. Given how they are all at such a relatively early stage of their apprenticeship, all have demonstrated a real in-depth knowledge of their various jobs and cope admirably with quite a high level of responsibility.”

The timing of the Bishop’s “apprenticeship” couldn’t have been better, with Apprenticeship Week beginning today (March 9). He was put through his paces at IK-UK by NECC apprentices Jack Pallister, 19, Adam Churm, 20, Jake Robinson, 19, and Andrew Knight, 20.

Jack said: “After my A-Levels I went to college and very quickly found that it was not the environment for me and I was keen to build some work experience. I feel really lucky to have secured an apprenticeship with IK-UK because we get to work closely with the clients and get support from everyone in the business.

“Because of the size of the company we get to work on some really interesting projects and we are encouraged to bring forward ideas as well as work closely with the lads who have been doing the job for years who pass on years of knowledge.”

As a surprise, the apprentices programmed the water jet cutting machine to carve an image of Durham Cathedral in copper plate and also presented the Bishop with a Rose Window coaster and a “pig” that the he had assembled himself.

IK-UK Chief Executive, Richard Whadcoat, arranged the “apprenticeship”, but it was his genuine apprentices who led the Bishop through his variety of tasks.

Richard said: “IK-UK has achieved a great deal in a relatively short period of time (the company is only four years old), but one of the things that I am most proud of is our commitment to apprenticeships and our current batch are fantastic.

“When I brought the idea of the Bishop Paul’s apprenticeship to the lads, they just ran with it. I think it was important that they led the day and gave him the full apprenticeship experience. They’re passionate about their roles within the business and that shone through not only for the Bishop’s visit, but every day they come into work.”

NECC Director of Policy, Ross Smith, said: “Bishop Paul must be congratulated for throwing himself into his apprenticeship and really entering into the spirit of the day and our thanks must go to IK-UK for not only organising a fantastic experience, but also for its commitment to apprenticeships and the training agenda.

“There is an energy throughout the whole company and an enthusiasm to keep pushing themselves, their products and their apprentices. IK-UK is a perfect example of a modern, forward-thinking business that is growing with its workforce and a clear demonstration of how apprenticeships are an ideal way of recruiting and developing a highly skilled workforce that can be molded to meet individual needs.”