SPECIALIST engineering company Pharos Marine Sims Systems has stepped in to employ two apprentices made redundant in the final year of their training because of the oil and gas industry slump.

Engineering apprentices Tom Woodruff and Cory Newland were desperate after losing their jobs with Great Yarmouth companies with only months to go to before completing their qualifications.

The 19 and 21-year-old sent CVs to more than 50 companies in the industry in Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft, following up each with a phone call.

“I only got three replies,” said Mr Woodruff, who was working for a company that pulled out of Great Yarmouth.

“Two were straight ‘nos’ and the other, thankfully, was Pharos Marine Sims Systems inviting me in for an interview.

“It had been so disheartening leaving a job with no qualifications after 18 months’ hard work at college and in the workplace.

“I was really worried because I knew how hard it had been to get an apprenticeship in the first place.”

Apprenticeships are key to Pharos Marine Sims Systems’ growth. Nineteen of its 34 staff began as apprentices, including several of its management team.

Its commitment to high-quality apprenticeships, delivered in partnership with Lowestoft College, won a Judges’ Commendation at the East of England Energy Group (EEEGR) Awards recently.

The company designs, manufactures and installs bespoke navigation aids offshore and onshore in all aspects of energy – oil & gas, turbines, nuclear and petrochemical.

It takes on at least two engineering, electrical installation and business administration apprentices a year and has trained almost 20 apprentices at level three and advanced level in the last 15 years in engineering, electrical installation and business administration.

“Pharos Marine Sims Systems has grasped what the apprenticeship process is about and is really doing it justice. It is excellent to see an offshore company, during the downturn, still prepared to invest in young people with apprenticeships of such structure and worth,” Bob Beard, of Lowestoft College, said.

Mr Woodruff works in the drawing room of the Gorleston-based company as a CAD engineer and feels he has found his niche. He has now completed his level three apprenticeship in operations and maintenance.

“I had been learning auto-cad for a couple of months before I was made redundant because I had broken my foot. Pharos Marine Sims Systems needed someone with experience of auto-cad so I fitted.”

Cory Newland had been unemployed for three months, one of a group of apprentices made redundant from a Great Yarmouth engineering company.

“Tom and I really are the lucky ones. We were on the same course at Lowestoft College and many of our friends have not found new apprenticeships and are working in temporary jobs in shops, bars and supermarkets or not working at all,” Mr Newland said.