Free on-the-job training, a toolkit, an engineering qualification - and an additional bursary for studying? Sound too good to be true? Well it’s not!
Meet Martin McVicar, the managing director of Combilift, whose local focus and passion for education has resulted in an industry focused traineeship for students interested in engineering and hydraulics.
With more than 45,000 units sold in over 85 countries, Combilift is the largest global manufacturer of multi-directional forklifts. Founded in 1998 by Martin McVicar and Robert Moffett, the Monaghan based company has gone from strength to strength. From humble beginnings with just three employees in 1998, Combilift is now a major local employer with over 650 people employed at their site in Annahagh, Monaghan and a 100 more working across its global markets.
What sets Combilift apart from other Irish multinationals is its investment in the local community and its people. Martin McVicar has always been passionate about education and training and with the development of a new €50 million Global Headquarters and manufacturing facility he saw an opportunity for a mutually beneficial partnership with Cavan & Monaghan Education & Training Board (CMETB).
“We realised early on that the availability of a skilled workforce would be a challenge and that there was an opportunity for Combilift to work with CMETB and Monaghan Institute to develop a programme that included all the necessary training as well as the practical placement required to produce a skilled workforce locally.”
The Combilift Managing Director approached Martin O’Brien, who was the Chief Executive of the ETB at the time. Very quickly they developed a QQI Level 5 Award in Engineering Technology aimed at preparing students for work in the sector.
The Combilift traineeship in Monaghan Institute combines traditional classroom learning with on-the-job work experience at the Combilift manufacturing facility. The traineeship runs for 36 weeks from September to May with students spending 24 weeks studying at the ETB as well as completing 12 weeks work experience with Combilift which takes place throughout the year in blocks of two or three weeks.
“There is this expectation from employers, students, and even parents that students are work-ready after graduation, however many courses out there do not offer in-depth practical experience and placement. We developed the traineeship to ensure that the students got both a nationally recognised qualification as well as the practical hands-on experience that makes them very employable. The traineeship is shorter in duration than an apprenticeship, but it follows the same 'earn as you learn' model, with opportunities to progress further.”
The partnership between Combilift and CMETB has been a huge success! Now in its 5th year, over 80 trainees have completed the programme with 80% of them joining Combilift.
The secret of the course’s success lies in removing the financial strain for students. The course is fully funded by the European Support Fund so there are no course fees, Combilift provide a full tool kit for each participant as well as providing a bursary for those not in receipt of a grant for the duration of the course.
Local employment has been hugely boosted by the partnership as Combilift employees the vast majority of students after they complete the traineeship.
“The students are work-ready and experienced. Some are now undertaking additional training with us, some have decided to travel and work abroad, both for Combilift and with other companies. Some have used the traineeship as a stepping-stone to degree courses and they often return to us to complete their placement and take up summer jobs.”