SOUTH Tynedale’s biggest employer is proving it’s got bottle – by investing in the workforce of the future.

Haltwhistle’s bottle factory has been at the heart of the local economy for decades, producing containers for household brand names such as Sarson’s vinegar, Saxo salt, and Carplan screen wash.

Now operating under the name RPC Promens, the factory is part of an international company with factories across the globe.

But the Haltwhistle plant, which employs 182 people, is doing its bit to help school leavers find their way into employment.

The factory currently has six apprentices on its books, working in a range of technical roles, including engineering and blow moulding.

And if the youngsters make a success of their time with RPC, served in conjunction with a college course, they are guaranteed a job at the end of it.

Site manager Graeme Stephenson said the factory has a good working relationship with Carlisle College, where the apprentices attended on day release, enabling them to achieve National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) and the Higher National Certificate (HNC).

Mr Stephenson added: “We find that apprenticeships are an appealing alternative to university because the youngsters can learn while they earn money, and they are not getting themselves into debt.

“Obviously it’s not for everyone, but for those who enjoy this type of work, there is a great career opportunity for them here.

“Potentially the apprentices can branch out into engineering, logistics, planning, admin and finance roles within RPC.

“This site has long been a big employer for South Tynedale and we want to invest in the next generation of workers.”

The scheme at RPC has caught the eye of Hexham’s MP Guy Opperman, who visited the Haltwhistle factory last Friday in the run up to National Apprenticeship Week, which begins on Monday.

Mr Opperman, who was given a tour of the factory alongside local county councillor Ian Hutchinson, said: “I’m very impressed with the commitment of RPC in helping young people get onto a worthy career path, and also the enthusiasm and abilities of the apprentices themselves.

He added: “This is an excellent scheme and it rewards young people who are willing to work hard and develop their skills.”