Joe Chater - Head of Apprenticeships - Liebherr Sunderland Works Limited

What was your career path to this point? 

I had a part time job for 2 years after school,  but knew I needed a skill and a long term career goal.  I went to college to do welding and fabrication Level 2.  I had a natural ability for this and after 6 months, my lecturer suggested that I find some work experience in my free time to further improve my skills.  I eventually found a two week work placement to develop the skills I needed.  I was then offered a part time role around college and gained some valuable experience.  I also progressed to a level 3 welding apprenticeship within the organisation.  Unfortunately the company wasn’t very supportive or accommodating of my development, they didn’t really understand apprenticeships and rather than train me in welding, I worked in general engineering even though my skill, interests and apprenticeship were geared towards welding.  My experience with the college was also not a good one due to many reasons.

I worked in Scotland for a time but my goal was to train and help young people, and ensure others wanting to enter the sector did not have a poor experience like I did.

I moved home and applied for a role at Liebherr (although I didn’t know this at the time as it was via an agency)

I passed the welding test and started my role as a Fabricator in August 2021, I was taken on full time a few months later in November and my current role came up in December 2022. 

A new Director wanted the right person to take full responsibility for the development apprenticeships.  I used my experience on ‘how not to do it’ and feel this helped me massively, and I was successful in being appointed as Head of Apprenticeships. 


What would you say the benefits of apprenticeships are for the employer and the young person?

This route allows us to embed, from day 1 an understanding of our procedures and the extremely high quality and safety standards we have in the work we produce.  We embed these high standards and ‘grow our own’ through a bespoke training programme which starts in Seta’s initial training programme.  

We are proud to be able to increase their pay as their skills and knowledge develop. Once qualified, apprentices can earn good money.

We have many ex-Liebherr apprentices on site who are now managers and supervisors.  This highlights the progression routes available within Liebherr and beyond for our apprentices.


Do you have any advice during National Apprenticeship Week?

As an employer, I feel that following the apprenticeship route can be more beneficial than a degree, and you can gain a degree as an apprentice if that is what you want to do.  The skills and experience are invaluable to success as an engineer.  It is the best possible way to progress through your career, whist working in industry.  I would be likely to employ someone who has followed this route, rather than the traditional college and university pathway, as I know they have demonstrated their skills throughout.


Is it an exciting time to be an engineer?

It really is, skills are in high demand all over the world for engineers which means you can travel and earn very good money!

Here at Liebherr, its well-paid once qualified and at the earliest of 20 years old you can earn up to £19 per hour as a basic pay rate.

In steel production there are some dying trades that can be done by machines for repeat products but when manufacturing bespoke machines these skills are very much needed in heavy industries like Liebherr!