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Sevcon, in Gateshead, says it has had to bring in foreign workers in to fill skills void

Thursday, May 9, 2013

WORKERS from Asia and the Middle-East are filling engineering posts at a electric vehicle parts maker because the North-East has a dearth of skilled workers. Sevcon says it has brought specialist engineers from China, Iran and Colombia to its Gateshead headquarters, where it employs 68 workers, and has now launched a £200,000 bursary scheme to fund students through university and nurture the region's next generation of engineers.

The electric and hybrid vehicle company, which makes motor controllers for Renault's two-seater Twizy quadricycle and Brammo motorcycles, has called on the Government to urgently address education platforms and allow more students to engage with engineering posts from a younger age. Matt Boyle, Sevcon president and chief executive, said: "We have been at this for a long time and have seen the oscillations in the market for five decades. "But we are not developing enough in our children and our education system to provide skilled engineers. "We have got people from China, Iran and Columbia working in Gateshead and have started the funding scheme to find people who will become engineers. "We recognise that we have got to grow our own."

He said the bursary scheme, in partnership with Newcastle and Northumbria universities, came after it struggled to find suitable recruits in the region, and it has already taken on two undergraduates with plans to fund another six students during the next few years. Mr Boyle was speaking after Sevcon revealed revenues had fallen from £12.2m to £9.5m in its half-year results for the end of March, with losses of £1m, compared to £600,000 profit the year before. It said revenues for the second quarter in this period were £5.3m, compared to £4.3m in the first three months of the financial year.

Mr Boyle said it expected to capitalise on the increased global demand for green transport, with the latest results coming after three years of successive growth, and he revealed it was looking to expand into the Far-East and North America after opening a new office in Germany to target Volkswagen, Audi and BMW. He said: "Conditions in both the off-road and on-road segments of our business continue to be very challenging, and product demand remains well below the levels of a year ago. "But the results are certainly not doom and gloom, we have recovered substantially and are quite bullish about the future.

"We have a number of hybrid products covering a broad church of markets, have a steady hand, and are looking at expansion across Europe, including Russia. "Although the near-term demand environment remains less than favourable, we remain committed to returning to growth and profitability."

Source: The Northern Echo


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