Call for apprentices from aviation company

MILDEN: Local hurricanes restorers. Suffolk Restorers Hugh Smith, Phil Parish, Richard Watson. Picture Mark Westley ANL-150112-214139009
MILDEN: Local hurricanes restorers. Suffolk Restorers Hugh Smith, Phil Parish, Richard Watson. Picture Mark Westley ANL-150112-214139009
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The boss of a Suffolk aviation company is backing calls for more apprenticeships as he struggles to find specialist engineers to restore iconic fighter planes to the skies.

Tony Ditheridge who runs Hawker Restorations in Milden urgently needs to fill vacancies for skilled craftsmen who can help put several iconic Battle of Britain Hurricanes back in the air.

In spite of widespread advertising - and even interviewing engineers from Poland – the vacancies remain unfilled.

Mr Ditheridge said: “In today’s world where the career emphasis seems to be focused on banking and computer science jobs, finding people with such skills as we require is proving very difficult.

“And the problem looks set to get worse because we don’t seem to be encouraging youngsters to take up things like apprenticeships.

“These kinds of skills used to be taught at technical colleges and apprenticeships played a major part in giving young people the chance of a career.

“However there now seems to be a trend for softer courses such as hospitality and even coffee-making. But we need people with hand-skills who can work with wood, fabric and metal.

“Despite an extensive recruitment campaign - that has even included advertising in Eastern Europe - we have not been able to find a suitable candidate to work or be trained on a unique historic product.

“We are contacting colleges that offer technical, engineering or production courses for students but there are just not enough apprenticeships.

“We do highly-specialised work and it would be a great career for someone who has - or could develop - the right skill-set.”

On the completion of the three currently in Hawker’s workshops, the company will have restored 11 of the 14 Hurricanes worldwide now flying – and worked on the remaining four aircraft.

But Mr Ditheridge warns that the current skills shortage means their ability to keep these historic aircraft in the air is under threat - it takes two-and-a-half years and 26,000 man hours to get one of the famous fighters flying again at a cost of around £2.5million.