Thatcham-based automotive and motorsport specialist Xtrac welcomed prime minister Theresa May to open its new manufacturing facility extension that will ultimately represent a £22 million investment in UK manufacturing. The prime minister’s visit to Xtrac took place ahead of the company co-hosting a Festival of Engineering involving budding engineers from schools across West Berkshire and North West Hampshire.
Peter Digby, president of Xtrac, showed the Prime Minister around the company’s premises, which operates 24 hours a day to create advanced gearboxes used by motorsports teams around the world and in hybrid and electric high-performance road cars.
The prime minister said: “Xtrac is a great example of how providing high-quality apprenticeship programmes can help people to go on to have long-term and successful careers within the company that trained them. I am very pleased to be able to open this new facility which I hope will remain a leader in the manufacturing industry and inspire the next generation of engineers.”
Xtrac has won numerous awards for its apprenticeship and undergraduate training programmes with one in seven (14%) of its 350 employees having started with the company as apprentices or undergraduates. Indeed, the company’s first-ever apprentice Simon Short who qualified 25 years ago remains with the company, holding a senior role in Xtrac’s North American operations.
“As an ex-apprentice, I recognise the importance of getting young people into the workplace and providing hands-on career development through apprenticeship schemes,” said Digby. “Xtrac retains many of its trainees, and this ensures that the business has the skills it needs to compete on the world stage while providing a rewarding and stimulating career.”
Following the prime minister’s visit, Xtrac co-hosted 400 secondary school students from West Berkshire and North West Hampshire, as part of the government’s industrial strategy 2018 Year of Engineering initiative. The Festival of Engineering was co-hosted by local members of parliament Richard Benyon, who has represented Newbury since 2005, and Kit Malthouse from the neighbouring North West Hampshire constituency. The festival, for school students aged 12 to 14 years, was planned and delivered by the Education Business Partnership (EBP), a charity based in Newbury.
Taking part in a series of practical activities given by 18 businesses including Dyson, SSE, Ocado, Thames Water and, of course, Xtrac, the students learned about the inspiring career opportunities available by studying science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects at GCSE level and above.
Richard Benyon commented: “2018 is the Year of Engineering and I’m really keen to get the message out to young people in school now that this is a hugely exciting and very diverse sector which also offers great career opportunities – especially here in the Thames Valley.”
Kit Malthouse added: “I’m proud to co-host this festival, which will help educate and inspire our young people into fruitful and vibrant careers such as engineering.”