Case Study: Joseph Rhodes Ltd develop tomorrow�s engineers


Today marks the end of ‘Tomorrow’s Engineers Week’; a week of activity designed to showcase the exciting career opportunities in the engineering sector.

With the largest manufacturing base in the UK and strengths in construction and low carbon technologies, the opportunities for engineers in Leeds City Region are vast. However, the sector is constantly evolving and more businesses are having difficulty recruiting people with the right skills.

Mark Ridgway (OBE) is the Managing Director of Joseph Rhodes Ltd - the UK’s largest original equipment manufacturer in its field of design and manufacture of specialised machinery for aerospace, metal forming, composites and ceramics. Working in the industry for many years, and currently the President of the UK’s Manufacturing Technologies Association, Mark has direct experience of the issues caused by skills shortages in engineering.

“There is a growing problem with young people leaving education without the skills that are needed to work in the industry. To address this issue at Joseph Rhodes, we have made the decision to employ increasing levels of apprentices to ensure that young people are given both the classroom and on the job training needed to become the engineers of tomorrow. We work closely with training providers to ensure that this is the case.”

Joseph Rhodes’ Apprenticeship Scheme is going from strength to strength. They currently employ 23 apprentices who make up 9% of the workforce.

“We have one apprentice who started working for us on the shop floor at the age of 16 and is now designing machinery for ‘fighter aircraft’ production, and others that have travelled to India and China as part of their role. I think our apprentices would agree there are some really exciting opportunities in engineering!”

Mark is keen to point out that whilst it is important that engineering is promoted as a career option, it is essential that businesses are given the support they need to offer the right opportunities to those interested in a career in the industry.

“We were fortunate that, as an established business, we are able to manage the process of offering apprenticeship opportunities in-house. For many companies this is not possible - we must make sure that the support is there for businesses to develop and grow their workforce.”

Through Mark’s position as Leeds City Region LEP Board member, he has become involved with the LEP’s ‘five three one’ initiative. Companies that join five three one are given free support from employment and skills specialists to do one or more of the following five actions:

  • Develop a skilled workforce
  • Mentor a budding entrepreneur
  • Build links with education
  • Offer work placements
  • Offer an apprenticeship

To date 295 companies have joined five three one, representing more than 200,000 employees in the City Region. The positive action of these companies has an economic value of up to £5.3m.

“From offering an apprenticeship to upskilling your existing workforce, making sure you employ the right people with the right skills is integral to running a successful business. I’m pleased to support an initiative that makes that process easier.”

For more information about five three one or to join the initiative, see