A County Durham-based training provider has been chosen by North East employer Banks Mining to help further enhance the workplace skills of the plant operations team at its Bradley surface mine near Leadgate.
Mick Gray, who runs SIM Academy, is now working with members of the team at the Bradley site as they progress towards a total of 19 Level 2 NVQs in Mobile Plant Operations.
The nationally-recognised qualification covers a wide range of the plant equipment used at the Bradley site, including excavators, dozers, shovels, dump trucks and graders, and combines observations of practical work with one-to-one instruction on areas such as site safety procedures, small maintenance tasks and standard operational procedures.
Each individual’s work is recorded electronically and collated into an e-portfolio that is used to provide evidence of the tasks they’ve completed that’s required for the qualification.
Mick Gray set up SIM Academy six months ago after spending 20 years working as a plant operator himself, as well as in training and demonstrator roles with UK Coal and Caterpillar.
The company works across the construction, mining and agricultural sectors, and is headquartered in Tanfield Lee near Stanley.
Mick Gray says: “The training work that I’m carrying out ensures the team’s skills are fully up-to-date and that each person has the key elements of their roles and responsibilities fresh at the front of their minds at all times.
“The Bradley team is already highly skilled, and they’re all taking to the tasks in hand extremely well.
“Much of the company’s work is outside the North East and involves significant travel, so it’s really beneficial to the business to have this sort of work happening on our doorstep.”
Forty-one jobs are now being directly supported by Banks Mining at the Bradley site, alongside others in the local supply chain. More than half of those working at Bradley live within five miles of the site, with almost all living within a 15-mile radius.
The restoration of the Bradley site will include the creation of new woodland and a nature reserve area, as well as the return of some of the land to agricultural use, while the related community benefits fund, which will provide funding for support eligible local community improvement projects and initiatives, will go live shortly.
Jamie Drysdale, manager at the Bradley surface mine, says: "Banks Mining has been providing people in the North East with the chance to build long-term careers and support their families through our mining operations for more than four decades, and we are continuing to invest in our highly-skilled workforce to ensure they can continue to work in the safest, most efficient and most environmentally responsible way possible.
“We have a longstanding policy of choosing to work with firms based in the communities around our projects wherever possible, and Mick’s substantial knowledge and expertise is making a tangible difference to our Bradley team’s skillsbase.
“The training they’re undertaking will not only help them in the work they’re doing now, but will also provide them with skills that they can use right through their careers.”
Gavin Styles, managing director at Banks Mining, adds: "As well as providing local employment and contract opportunities, and contributing positively to the UK's balance of payments, our North East mining sites are helping to meet the UK's continuing need for coal for a range of essential commercial, industrial and energy generations purposes.
“If this need is not met using carefully-mined indigenous coal, it will instead be satisfied via imports from potentially-unstable and distant overseas markets such as the US, Colombia and most especially Russia, from where there has already been an increase of around 70% in coal imports over the last two years.
“This is simply ‘off-shoring’ our environmental responsibilities and results in an inevitable increase in greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation of the coal that has to be imported.
“We have no oversight of the safety and environmental standards to which imported coal has been mined, its production does not deliver any economic benefit to our regional and national economies, and the greenhouse gas emissions associated with its transportation to the UK are also at least five times greater per tonne than the amount generated by the transportation of coal mined in North East England.
"It surely makes far greater sense in today’s uncertain times to support skilled North East jobs, deliver regional environmental and conservation enhancements, avoid these additional greenhouse gas emissions, boost the UK's balance of payments and provide a secure domestic supply of the raw material for steel and cement manufacture and energy production by meeting our nation’s continuing need for coal through indigenous coal reserves instead of further increasing our reliance on imports.”
Founded in Tow Law, County Durham in 1976, Banks Mining has operated and restored 111 surface mines across Scotland and northern England, and alongside its Bradley workforce, it also employs around 170 people at its Shotton and Brenkley Lane surface mines near Cramlington in Northumberland.