Byline: FRANCESCA CRAGGS
TWO black and white photographs of the Tyne Bridge under construction hang on the wall of businessman Richard Dodd's office.
"This one is my favourite. It shows the very last piece being lifted into place," he says.
You would be hard pushed to find a homespun Northerner more passionate about engineering than Richard, but then he is group product and engineering director at British Engines Limited, one of S the region's greatest success stories. And while his company had no hand in the creation of the iconic landmark, he nevertheless feels an affinity towards it.
"We've been around for a similar amount of time," he explains, "and for me the Tyne Bridge encapsulates the long heritage of engineering in this region."
In fact British Engines Ltd, formed in 1922, predates the bridge, which was officially opened by King George V and Queen Mary in 1928. Nevertheless, Richard and his company identify with it so strongly that British Engines recently sponsored an event to mark its 85th anniversary at the Raval Indian Restaurant in Gateshead. A business in the shadow of the bridge on Gateshead Quays. The event also provided an opportunity for British Engines to confirm its commitment to the region and its workforce.
And it can rightly be proud of that commitment. The company, which has its headquarters at St Peter's, Newcastle, employs 1,200 people globally across its six divisions and in the past year alone created 123 new jobs.
Engineering is most definitely in Richard's blood. His grandfather was an engineer and his father Ron has been an instrumental figure at British Engines since he joined as an apprentice in 1952. As well as setting up the company's pioneering apprenticeship programme, Ron worked his way through the ranks as a mechanical manufacturing engineer to become chairman, and was awarded an MBE two years ago for his efforts. He still takes an active part in the company's Stephenson Gobin division based in Bishop Auckland.
And it's safe to say his example inspired the young Richard Dodd to follow in his footsteps. He remembers accompanying his father to work as a young child.
Richard, 49, said: "I remember my dad bringing me in to work with him at weekends when I was as young as three or four, so I suppose I was destined for a career in engineering. I've always grown up in the engineering disciplines had a strong affinity to all the sciences like engineering and physics and chemistry.
"I always wanted to move into some form of engineering type role, whether it be mechanical or manufacturing, but always had the aspiration that I wanted to get into being successful in my chosen career in terms of being able to lead and direct."
Born and bred in North Shields, Richard attended the Royal Grammar School in Newcastle. After finishing school in 1992, he took a year out to complete a short form apprenticeship at British Engines, before going to Birmingham university to complete a degree in mechanical engineering, manufacturing and management.
"I grew up in a progressively changing world whereby my father started off as an apprentice and worked his way up through the business. I grew up in that environment.
My dad's career with British Engines has had a big influence on my own. I'm very close to my father and he's been sort of a mentor to me. Being an engineer himself has obviously helped me throughout my career," said Richard.
He took on his current job, group product and engineering director at British Engines, three years ago. This globe trotting role sees Richard regularly visit the company's overseas division in Bangalor, India. This site was set up in 2001 to help support the business in terms of manufacturing components and computer aided design and manufacture.
Richard said: "We have a very good management team out there. I find history fascinating and India has a lot of heritage and culture to thrive upon. …