Car parts manufacturer Nifco UK has become one of the region’s most vocal advocates of apprenticeships and training.
With a growing team and a significant training programme underway, Tees Business speaks to Sarah Turnbull, an account manager at Nifco, to find out more about her own progression through the business.
“I started my career with Nifco in May 2001, so more than 14 years ago,” says Sarah.
“I’ve seen a great deal of change during my time with the company. It’s all very positive now and an exciting time to be part of the company.”
Sarah started with Nifco in an administrator role, working mainly to support the then-engineering manager.
After going through some difficulties, which Nifco’s MD Mike Matthews has said threatened to close down the business, Sarah was around during a wave of redundancies, which saw the firm’s 650-strong team significantly cut back.
“That was a tough time,” adds Sarah. “But we bounced back. And when Mike took over in 2008, there was a change in the business. The culture is completely different now, and it feels like we’re going places – Nifco is doing really well.”
Nifco is a £60m business that has plans to increase its turnover to £75m by 2016.
It makes plastic components that are used in the engines, interiors, and exteriors of cars made by Ford, Honda, Jaguar Land Rover, Nissan, Toyota and Vauxhall Opel.
The company’s progress has been most visible over the last few years, after the business moved from its sixties factory on Stockton’s Yarm Road, to a state-of-the-art facility in Eaglescliffe.
The company began by moving to Nifco House, and expanded its footprint with the addition of a second facility for Powertrain and R&D last year. It has significantly invested in new machinery that has helped propel its technical capabilities to new heights. The next step was to invest in training.
Nifco UK has invested in a programme of training for its team for a number of years, and will be supported with this in the future, having received a grant from BIS’s Employer Ownership Fund (EOF), which will see the company commission a further £300,000 worth of productivity training for its growing team over a three year period; this is in addition to the £300,000 already committed to training each year.
Sarah is herself evidence of the company’s investment in people. Having been promoted to a senior administrator in 2004, Sarah moved to a role within the company’s IT team, before finally applying for a role in sales. Sarah was appointed as a sales controller in 2007.
“It was a really positive move for me, and it was a more senior role, so I had already progressed well,” she says.
“The company worked with SEMTA to organise a Women At Work Programme, which was about promoting a sense of aspiration among female employees working in male-dominated industries. I knew that I wanted to do more, and I looked into courses available to me.
“I wanted to know more about business generally. And I knew – I wanted a degree.”
Sarah approached the company’s HR team, who helped to source Government funding to support with Sarah’s fees. They also agreed that they would give Sarah more time out of the office to study at Teesside University for a BSc degree in Business Management.
“I was delighted. It was hard work, but when I achieved my degree, I felt it had all been worthwhile,” says Sarah.
Sarah’s First Class degree allowed her to make another step up, and she was appointed as an account manager, with responsibility for the Nissan account.
“It’s a great role. I spend a great deal of time with the team at Nissan, and I hope that I play a part in strengthening the Nifco name with them, and of course play a role in growing Nifco as a business.
“Nifco is a really supportive employer, and with their help I have not only been able to gain a degree, but to progress my career.
“They really work hard to keep their employees happy, and this means that, as a team, we work even harder to keep our customers happy too. It really is great to be part of such a successful team.”
For more details about Nifco visit www.nifcoeu.com