Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal’s visit to meet recipients of her eponymous Princess Royal Training Award, assessed by City & Guilds she serves as president, was accommodated by the motorsport & automotive transmission technology specialist Xtrac at its global headquarters in Thatcham, in the Royal County of Berkshire, on Wednesday 11 May 2022. The visit followed the presentation of the 2021 award to 46 businesses at a special ceremony on Thursday 28 April, at the Mansion House in London, hosted by the Lord Mayor of the City.
Upon arriving at Xtrac to meet apprentices and graduates and hear about their training, Her Royal Highness was received by Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of Berkshire, James Puxley. He began the proceedings by presenting Dr Ann Limb, chair, and Kirstie Donnelly MBE, group chief executive of the City and Guilds of London Institute, also introducing Peter Digby, president, Joe Greenwell CBE, non-executive director, and Adrian Moore, chief executive officer of Xtrac.
“Having twice received the Princess Royal Training Award, including in 2018, we were delighted to accommodate this visit following the recent official opening of our new apprenticeship academy,” said Digby, “adding gravitas to her gracious comments about the hard work we put into our apprenticeship and graduate training schemes and that we should be justly proud of our success and achievements.”
Starting his career as a British Airways apprentice and Xtrac’s longest-serving employee, the company’s president has long supported the development of its apprentice scheme. “Our training programmes provide a solid foundation underpinning the technical and sales success we’ve achieved since the company started in 1984. Today, we employ almost 400 highly trained staff in the UK and USA.”
During her visit, the newly built computer-aided engineering classroom facilitated The Princess and Ms Donnelly participating in a round table discussion on ‘Females in Engineering’ with apprentice Faye Cooke and graduate engineers Jessica Matthews and Katie Parton.
Her Royal Highness also met in the Academy’s practical skills workshop with Xtrac’s professional training partners, including Shelly Van Meter, head of department and apprenticeships, and Cliff Newcomb, development coach, Newbury College. The Princess also met master coachmaker Sarah Sillars OBE and coachmaker John Blauth, from the Worshipful Company of Coachmaker and Harness Makers, who support apprentices with educational bursaries.
During Xtrac’s manufacturing facilities tour, Peter Digby and Adrian Moore explained its operations to The Princess, who met with former apprentice Ryan Bambrick and current apprentice Joe Monger, trainers Luke Barrington and Matt Ford, and former apprentice Jamie Rusbridge.
Xtrac’s high precision bevel-gear cutting, and meticulous grinding operations, were demonstrated by apprentices Wesley Bloom and George Englefield, former apprentice Stephen Gomm, accompanied by machinists Keith Dickinson and Chris Neal, team leaders and former apprentices Martin Carrick and Jason Woodley, trainer Neil Warwick, and apprentice manager, Warren Page.
In the quality department, apprentice Adam Tamcken and inspector Connor Englefield explained how Xtrac achieves full traceability of every component. While the apprentice Jamie Lawson, accompanied by trainers Alex Jennings and Jack Parkins, familiarised Her Royal Highness with Xtrac’s essential heat treatment operation.
Other employees meeting The Princess included former apprentices Matt Booth, Chris Burn, Joshua Crolla, Dan Eggleton, Harrison Gale, Arron Marshall, and Lee Stannard, along with current apprentices Thomas Aram, Adam Bowes, Joshua Gaut, Alfie Gibbons, Joseph Jukes, Chris Marrs, and Louis Wilson.
The company’s chief executive, Adrian Moore, who began his career as an undergraduate sponsored by Rolls-Royce, is highly supportive of the company’s training programmes, which the board of directors and senior management team comprehensively endorse.
“Our training programmes strongly underpin the continual improvement of our capabilities,” said Moore. “It receives the highest priority throughout the business, supporting the company demand for a highly trained multi-skilled workforce to ensure our customers have the best products and services.”
“It’s particularly relevant as we are at the forefront of a once-in-a-generation technology change as the motorsport and automotive industry transitions from the internal combustion engine to hybrids and electric vehicles. Empowering our employees ensures we have the best people delivering innovative solutions to our customers globally. The Queen’s Award for Enterprise similarly recognised Xtrac in 2020 with its Innovation Award for our advanced range of integrated lightweight electric vehicle transmissions.”
Xtrac introduced its apprenticeship scheme in 1993 and has worked with Newbury College since 2003 to deliver its apprenticeships in advanced manufacturing. It has since been an exemplar of engineering training and learning best practices in a high-growth company. The investment into its Academy is part of Xtrac’s ongoing business expansion, with additional state-of-art test facilities and increased manufacturing capacity to meet growing global demand.
The Xtrac Academy, a dedicated apprenticeship facility, was officially opened by Laura Farris, MP for Newbury, on 4 March 2022. For more information, please visit: https://www.xtrac.com/xtrac-academy/
Based in Berkshire in the UK and Indiana and North Carolina in the US, Xtrac is a prominent ambassador for the UK’s world-renowned motorsport industry, exporting 70 per cent of its manufacturing output to Asia, Australia, Europe, South America, and the US.
Established in 1984, the company today employs almost 400 highly qualified staff, including those trained through Xtrac’s award-winning apprentice, undergraduate, and post-graduate schemes to work on global customer programmes, supplying world-class transmission and driveline products, including gearboxes, differentials and gearchange systems.
Xtrac has won numerous awards for its training programmes, with one in seven of its employees having started with the company as an apprentice or undergraduate. Its first-ever apprentice Simon Short, who joined the company in the early 1990s, now holds a senior role in Xtrac’s North American operations. More than a third of over 120 apprentices and undergraduates trained over the past 30 years remain with the company.
In 2017, Xtrac was subject to a successful buyout by UK-based Inflexion Private Equity, supporting the senior management team and Employee Benefit Trust. Its award-winning EBT was established in 1997 when (then) managing director Peter Digby led an inspiring management buyout that included all employees. Working with government, industry, and academic bodies, Xtrac’s apprenticeship schemes, graduate training, and tailored personal development programmes are available for all staff members.
Xtrac works mainly with the high-performance automotive sector alongside its traditional heartland of the motorsport industry. The company aligns with the UK government’s industrial strategy for the automotive sector and the Automotive Council’s net-zero mobility agenda by developing highly efficient and lightweight vehicle transmission systems. Customers of its high-performance automotive and motorsport business sectors rely on its specialist expertise, augmented by the company’s substantial investment in research and innovation and advanced design, engineering, and manufacturing resources.