Salamander Pumps is strengthening its commitment to customer service, innovation and product development, with an in-house apprenticeship programme that has seen its first student graduate into a permanent role, while seven of its staff are combining work with studying for qualifications.

The Sunderland-based company has appointed 22-year-old Jayson Shepherd research and development engineer, following a successful three-year apprenticeship to complete his HNC in Mechanical Engineering and an NVQ level three in Engineering Technical Support.

Stepping into Mr Jayson’s shoes is Lewis Wilkes, who is studying for an HNC in Mechanical Engineering and becomes the company’s second full time apprentice.

Gareth Richards, technical director at Salamander Pumps, said: ‘Our installer base scores us highly for our approach to customer service compared with our competitors, and that would not happen unless we had staff with the right skills and knowledge to advise them.

“We committed to an apprenticeship programme several years ago, to encourage young people into the industry and promote a ‘grow our own skills base’ culture. As an ex-apprentice myself I have first-hand experience of the value of this method of kick-starting a career, and the opportunities it presents for young people and their employers.

“In Jayson we have a young, ready-made engineer whose contribution is wholly relevant to our business, and his ideas have already made a positive impact within our research and development programme.”

Mr Shepherd added: ‘My apprenticeship with Salamander has given me a solid start to my career and I’ve gained experience in product testing, compliance and approvals, ISO 9001, maintenance, CAD systems and project management.

“I have been interested in engineering from a young age and thought I would have to do A-levels then a degree, but when I looked at the apprenticeship route I knew I would be better suited to it.

“I have been lucky to work with and learn from a great team of people, and I’m very pleased to have been appointed as a research and development engineer. To be given the freedom to bring ideas to life and help to develop the products of the future so early in my career is fantastic.”

As part of Salamander’s pledge to continuous training for all its staff, seven members of the technical, administration and support teams are combining their roles with studying for a range of qualifications including manufacturing engineering, sales, business administration and contact centre operations.

Among them are marketing assistant Stephanie Clark, who joined the company as a graduate intern in 2014, and ex-plumber Ken Vance who recently completed an HNC in Manufacturing Engineering and works on the customer service desk.

“Our staff underpin our reputation for quality, innovation and customer service. For instance our technical and customer support teams have qualifications in plumbing, manufacturing and engineering, so installers know they are talking to people who can do the job and talk their language,” added Mr Richards.

”We are very proud of every one of our employees who has successfully gained qualifications or who are combining a job role with studying, and playing their part in helping us to deliver a quality service to our customers.”

Salamander works with training organisations Tyne North Training and In-Training to deliver its apprenticeship and staff training programmes.

Picture caption: L-r: Gareth Richards, Lewis Wilkes, Ken Vance, Stephanie Clark, Jayson Shepherd.