FURNESS-based Oxley Developments is making its biggest investment in apprentices for 15 years – with plans for another intake in 2014.

The company is recruiting apprentices as part of a plan to avoid the loss of specialist skills as some of its long-serving employees approach retirement, and to expand as they continue to serve customers in aero-space and defence around the world.

Oxley currently has six apprentices in their first year and three in the second year of their apprenticeship.

The areas in which they work include engineering, process control, project management and business administration.

Joanna Harvey, 23, is a business administration apprentice working in the components team at Barrow and undertaking training on a day release basis. She had studied hairdres-sing at college but was keen to get more transferrable qualifications.

Jeff Hayward is 22 and was already employed at Oxley when he applied for an apprenticeship to obtain more formal qualifications and advance his career.

He is doing a two-year course in electrical engineering and said: “The combination of college work and on-the-job experience is working really well for me.”

Will Mallinson was just 18 when he joined the company and is now in the second year of his apprenticeship specialising in prototyping at Oxley in Ulverston.

Group chief executive Martin Blakstad said the investment in apprentices demonstrated the company’s commitment to its future in key global markets.

He said: “We have an extraordinary range of skills within the company which, combined with a huge wealth of experience, enables Oxley to offer concept, design, manufacturing and testing to the very highest levels in demanding aerospace and military markets.

“Apprenticeships, along with the training and development of staff, are vital for enhancing our capabilities. This investment, alongside the spend we have made in a new production facility this year, will mean Oxley is well placed to move forward in delivering world class products to our customer base.”