Scott Atkinson and Gary Errington

by Kerry Burlison

Scott Atkinson, 28, and Gary Errington, 26, both earned First Class Honours Degrees in Mechanical Engineering, having progressed rapidly since signing up with the Birtley firm as young apprentices in 2006 and 2008 respectively.

The duo excelled over the four-year degree, undertaken via day-release at Northumbria University, and are now focused on putting theory into practice at Komatsu.

Building services engineer, Scott, of Sunderland, who joined Komatsu straight from school, said the manufacturer encourages staff to upskill, and puts his own progress down to the many training opportunities provided by the firm.

“The company put us through our NVQs and HND qualifications during our apprenticeships and it felt like there was a real commitment to make sure we were as skilled and qualified as we could possibly be,” said Scott. “That’s great for a youngster who has not long left school. Knowing that the company values you, is willing to invest in you and makes sure that you fulfil your potential.

“When I got my last promotion, the first thing I did was enquire about a degree. I wanted to keep on pushing myself and my new manager agreed. It was hard work and the first year was really tough balancing work and university, but it got better and ended up a really positive experience.”

Quality assurance engineer, Gary, 26, from South Shields, agrees.

“When I left school, I wanted to be an engineer and I also wanted to start earning, so the Komatsu apprenticeship really appealed to me,” he said. “But I also wanted to do a degree course, so that has always been at the back of my mind during my apprenticeship and while I’ve been working at the factory.

“If you work for a good company, there will be good opportunities and at Komatsu we are all actively encouraged to improve our skills and continue to push ourselves further. The degree was tough at times but it was totally worth it – I’d encourage anyone else who gets the opportunity to do it.”

Tracey Bowman, Director of Human Recourses & Corporate Affairs at Komatsu, said: “It is fantastic to see employees like Scott and Gary, both of whom have worked incredibly hard since arriving at Komatsu, grasp the opportunity to expand their academic qualifications.

“Komatsu is passionate about helping employees fulfil their potential and we are totally committed to training and the skills agenda. I’d like to congratulate Scott and Gary for their well-earned Firsts and on joining the ranks of Komatsu employees who have excelled as apprentices, employees and as students.”

Komatsu last year celebrated the 30th anniversary of the opening of its Birtley plant. In a landmark year, the company launched three new machines, all of which are industry leaders in high reach, hybrid and intelligent machine technology.

The firm employs over 450 people and has recruited over 50 new employees in the last year, including apprentices, graduates, and production operators.

Komatsu UK is part of the Global Komatsu organisation, which is the world’s second-largest manufacturer and supplier of construction and mining equipment.