Boss who started at Huddersfield firm as teen apprentice in 1977 retires after bringing through new generation of apprentices

A manager who started as an apprentice at one of Huddersfield’s best-known companies has retired after helping to transform its apprenticeship scheme into one of the best in the UK.

Ian Nunn, who retired yesterday, was a 16-year-old apprentice fitter when he began his career at the former ICI which is now Syngenta on Leeds Road in Huddersfield in August 1977.

The company makes products which help farmers tackle weeds, pests and diseases in plants.

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Now, 45 years later, Mr Nunn is retiring from his role of Apprenticeship Manager with the scheme he oversaw winning a series of awards over the past 12 years.

Ian Nunn has retired after 45 years with the same firm.Ian Nunn has retired after 45 years with the same firm.
Ian Nunn has retired after 45 years with the same firm.

Since 2010 Syngenta in Huddersfield has taken on 84 apprentices with 80 of them finishing their apprenticeships and securing jobs with the company. Only four have left to pursue other options.

Several have progressed into management roles at the plant.

Mr Nunn, 61, of Mirfield, said: “We have to keep these skills in the UK so we need apprenticeships like never before to train a workforce up to the standards the industry requires.

“But, more than that, they bring fresh ideas into any organisation and question the way things are done and why. It’s good for any company to have young people coming through with an enthusiasm, a passion and a strong work ethic and that’s what we are seeing happening now.

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“The chemical industry is no longer the heavy industrial workplace it once was. It’s now far more technical and computer controlled so needs people with critical thinking skills and the ability to solve problems.

“Successful apprenticeships bring a sense of loyalty and continuity to a company and our aim in 2010 was to have 20 per cent of the workforce made up of staff who had come through the apprenticeship scheme.

“We are just about there with that and have a very high retention rate at Syngenta. Syngenta has a real community feel about the site and is seen as a very good place to work.”

The apprenticeship roles used to be just on the engineering side but now include cyber security, health and safety, science manufacturing, business administration, production support and science.

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All apprentices have the opportunity to turn their qualifications into degree apprenticeships. They all achieve technical qualifications, then vocational ones such as NVQs before going through a workplace programme to get that all-important on-the-job training.

Mr Dunn said: “I started as a fitter, learning on-the-job skills and then – such was the size of the company – I was able to move departments so had spells in design, then operating one of our manufacturing plants before going to the technical engineering department, taking new products into the laboratory and then scaling them up. So the apprenticeship stood me in good stead and got me going within the company.”

He moved into learning and development around 30 years ago, training staff to do vital roles such as plant operation and ensuring the health and safety standards were incredibly high.

Mr Dunn paid tribute to colleagues Nikita Seabright and former apprenticeship manager Nigel Wright, who retired in 2017, for their work in setting up and developing the Syngenta scheme.

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The department has won apprenticeship awards and several youngsters from Syngenta have won Apprentice of the Year awards.

Mr Nunn said: “When one of our youngsters wins an award it shows how well they’ve progressed but some of that success must also be down to a management that believes and invests in its workforce and the effort and time that more experienced colleagues put into teaching young people on-the-job skills. It really is a team effort. ”

Mr Nunn was highly commended earlier this year in the regional awards for Apprenticeship Champion of the Year 2022.

His manager Steve Convey said: “What has been achieved over the years is a real credit to Ian and Nikita – and to Nigel before he retired. The apprenticeship programme at Huddersfield was inspired by skills shortages at that time within the UK chemical industry and has become an essential part of our sustainable workforce plan.

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“We are now building on those firm foundations to create a flagship learning and development programme for all employees; continuing to make Syngenta a fantastic career choice and place to work.”

Mr Nunn now plans to retire with his wife, Joanna, and is looking forward to spending more time on his hobbies of walking and going to music gigs.

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