Manufacturing the future leaders of industry

One of the North East’s most famous manufacturers is creating a production line of future leaders.

As well as designing, developing and making world-renowned excavators, Komatsu UK is also making sure the region is stocked with engineering leaders, with its focus on the upskilling of its Birtley workforce.

A cohort of 28 employees recently graduated from the company’s in-house Institute of Leadership Management (ILM) qualification – helping ensure it has the capabilities to meet and surpass future manufacturing and engineering needs.

With 15 members of staff completing the Level 3 qualification and 13 successfully finishing Level 5, the firm remains focused on developing and improving the skills of its workforce. 

The ILM qualifications help future proof the Birtley workforce, which is also supported by significant investment in Komatsu UK’s successful apprenticeship programme, a number of employees being supported through engineering degrees, a team of ambassadors promoting STEM subjects to schools and colleges and the firm’s ongoing in-house Technology Olympics and Quality Circle competitions.

Tracey Bowman, HR director at Komatsu, said: “We are focused on improving and developing every level of the business and the ILM course is a fantastic way to drive up our already-high standards of leadership and management.

“The graduates also report a significant rise in their confidence, as it helps equip them with the tools to not only improve their management techniques, but also ways to improve morale and inspire people.”

groupe picture KUK

Caption: ILM - Level 3

One of the Level 5 Graduates is KUK senior field support engineer, Robert Gibson. He said: “It’s been really enjoyable putting the theory into practice – utilising those skills that help you figure out when and how to encourage people, finding out what motivates individuals and also how my behavior impacts on others. It’s so interesting.

“The main benefit for me has been how it has helped me develop my own management style and appreciate how important it is that my team members are respected and know that they have a voice. I’d recommend the course to everyone with managerial ambitions.”

groupe picture KUK

Caption: ILM - Level 5 

Nine years ago, an ILM programme was introduced for supervisory staff at the Birtley plant. Having experienced real benefit from introducing the qualification, with skills learned on the course being transferred directly into the business, Komatsu decided to continue the programmes.

Gemma Brotherton, Komatsu Way and PR Co-ordinator, has completed the Level 3 qualification. She said: “I joined KUK as a receptionist and worked my way up to Purchasing Officer. I’m now responsible for Quality Circle activities, and delivering Komatsu Way training programmes. When the opportunity was offered to enhance my leadership skills, I jumped at the chance.

“It’s such a vital course for employees expected to manage anyone – whether that’s as their direct line manager or delivering successful training. It helps you to understand people’s motivations and how to successfully engage with them.

The courses cover a range of skills in six core areas – working with people, managing personal performance and skills, providing direction, facilitating innovation and change, achieving results, and using resources. ILM is tailored to suit the needs of the individual and employer.

Tracey added: “A successful business is focused on enhancing the skills and abilities of its employees and investment in training is always money well spent. 

“As our most valuable asset, employee development remains vital. From apprentices to the senior leadership team, we place huge emphasis on training and skills.”



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The Komatsu UK Assembly line
Komatsu UK Ltd. is a major production facility for construction and mining equipment in the Komatsu group. Located in Birtley (UK), near Newcastle in North East England, Komatsu UK proudly provides high quality and reliable products. Komatsu UK currently employs approx. 400 staff and has an extensive product portfolio, featuring 17 models. It currently exports mainly to Europe and North Africa.