Avon Protection pledged in August 2019 to Be Involved to support apprenticeships, up skilling their employees and supporting Schools. Avon Protection is based in Melksham and is a part of Avon Rubber p.l.c. which is an innovative technology group with a varied history spanning 130 years. Today the business manufactures respirators and milking equipment and currently employs around 280 people at their UK site.  We met with Mary – Jo Cabanes-Book HR Advisor and Clair Randall – Corporate Communications Manager to discuss their pledges and the impact it has on the business.

Can you tell us about your experiences of having an apprentice in your business.

We have two apprentices who have just completed their study and are now in full time engineering roles, another apprentice in IT who is just about to complete his programme. We are also using the apprenticeship levy to up skill current employees. Phil works on the thermal imaging production line, we wanted to develop this area of the business as we were lacking in skills for the future. Phil had his A-Levels already, so he is on a higher-level apprenticeship, he will be on his apprenticeship for five years but will gain a degree at the end of the course. We also have another member of the team, Waldek who is studying at UWE in Bristol on an Engineering Degree apprenticeship. We plan to continue to use the levy when the right role arises to fill skills gaps.

Can you talk us through the way in which you have been supporting Schools at Avon?

We focus on supporting Schools from a STEM aspect for example we work with Corsham School during their STEM day to offer a site tour to Year 10 students and run 45-minute workshops. We will be welcoming St Augustine’s for a site visit and they will be working with our design team to learn about this process. In June during International Women in Engineering Day we invite female students from Year 8 or 9 to visit the factory, in June 2019 we had 40 young girls attend.

We have also supported careers fairs at John Bentley and Melksham Oak and mock interviews and CV workshops at Corsham School. If students are interested in work experience they can complete a form on our website, this takes place over the summer.
Through our Graduate programme we have recruited 9 graduates over almost 5 years, we are attracting people into Wiltshire from other areas of the country and retaining that talent.

Why was it important to the business to pledge to Be Involved?

We are aware there is a STEM skills shortage and being in a rural area we are fighting for talent, so we understand the need to build the pipeline of future talent. We hope we can help young people understand what possibilities are out there. Once they meet us or visit Avon they will know we are out there and a viable option for their career.

We also find the process of meeting students rewarding and a lot of the staff care about STEM and know the importance of raising aspiration. If we make a difference to one student interview experience or CV that could help them get a job that’s a very rewarding thing to do.

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