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Engineering skills

THE THARSUS FACTOR FINDS RAW ENGINEERING TALENT

NORTH East engineering firm Tharsus Group has joined with The Blyth Tall Ships Project to provide an engineering skills course, ‘The Tharsus Factor’ in order to kick-start careers for young unemployed people.

The community course, which ran for ten days over a three-week period, has been an innovative way for Tharsus to attempt to fill an engineering skills gap, common across the industry, at the same time as providing valuable experience and career opportunities for those currently seeking work in the local area.

The Blyth Tall Ships Project uses historical boat building techniques and has ambitious plans to follow in the footsteps, 200 years ago, of Captain William Smith who discovered the Antarctic landmass by building a ship in Blyth and sailing around Cape Horn. The project aims to increase employment rates by providing experience that can all go towards building a CV.  The ‘Tharsus Factor’ started with 12 unemployed individuals aged 18 - 40, all who demonstrated an interest in welding.  

Brian Palmer, chief executive at Blyth-based firm Tharsus said: "This kind of collaboration is a win-win situation for everyone involved.  Welders are in short supply in the North East and to have a group of local people with a genuine passion for engineering and welding is really exciting for us.

"Projects like this help the industry to identify people with a natural aptitude for engineering - all of the people involved were completely new to the industry but shared a common passion for hands on work. Through the project we were able to train to the standards required by our industry and the candidates now have an ambition to pursue a career in engineering.”

To ensure the project was successful, Blyth Tall Ships worked closely with retired Tharsus employee, Keith Cameron, who supported the individuals through Level 1 NVQ module in TIG Welding.  Keith became closely affiliated with the project and used his extensive knowledge and experience to instruct students to the high standard expected at Tharsus.

Keith said: "It was a pleasure to work on the project and see some of the younger individuals with their whole career in engineering ahead of them.  I worked at Tharsus for many years and I am sure that they will gain the same valuable experience that I did.

"TIG welding requires a basic competency that is as much an art as it is a trained process, so it was impressive to see five of the candidates passing the course with flying colours.”

Tharsus funded in-house training for those candidates who had completed the course, allowing them to further develop their TIG welding skills, working towards observation and assessment by an experienced welding engineer.

The firm then subsequently offered three of the Tharsus Factor contenders a work placement with the potential to lead to an apprenticeship opportunity. 20-year-old John Fensome, 23-year-old Kyle Vincent and 18-year-old Calum Long are currently gaining experience at the Blyth factory working on various projects.

John Fensome said: "It’s been an amazing learning experience and to be working on the factory floor is more than I could have imagined. I hope I can now go on to further my career in engineering – an opportunity I didn’t have before.”

Clive Gray from Blyth Tall Ships said:  "These people represent the raw engineering talent in the North East.  We are keen to continue collaborating with Tharsus in any way possible and are currently considering working together on future projects where there is a specific skills need that requires specialist training.”

Brian Palmer, chief executive at Tharsus concluded: "We’ve grown our workforce by more than 50% in the last 8 months and have ambitious plans that will create more opportunities for the local community in the future. We already have a number of apprentices working across different departments and see young people as a key part of our strategy to develop our own talent. Recent contract wins mean that we can offer fantastic opportunities to work on a variety of exciting engineering projects.”