Specialist engineers who have been keeping the British Armed Forces moving for decades have welcomed a fifth generation to their ranks.

Darlington College apprentice Will Body joins the staff of Body Engineering, continuing a family tradition started by his great great grandfather Albert, who designed and manufactured the bearings for the first jet engine produced by Sir Frank Whittle.

The former Barnard Castle School boy, of Butterknowle, will bring the tech-savvy knowledge of youth and social media skills to the Evenwood engineering company as it embarks on an exciting period of diversification.

The diversification has resulted in Body Engineering joining 17 other County Durham firms who are exhibiting at this year’s EMCON Incubator Zone, an ERDF funded support programme delivered by Business Durham and LEC Communications and Design.

Will, 18, who opted for an apprenticeship with Darlington College rather than go to straight to university, said: “I’m really enjoying it as I am being taught the hands-on skills of specialist engineering.

“But I’ll also be able to help the firm find new work around the globe with my knowledge of social media and marketing.”

Engineering has served the Body family across the decades. Albert’s son Kenneth also went into engineering as did his son Robert, who worked for the world-famous arms manufacturer Vickers Armstrong on the Tyne.

Robert and his brother Paul set up the latest operation in 1989 with Will’s father David joining the firm from school and working his way up to managing director.

For three decades the company has produced track pins for the MOD keeping armoured vehicles on the road, including the latest Challenger II battle tank.

David said: “It is amazing to think that every single British armoured vehicle runs on our components. They have served in two Gulf Wars, the Balkans, Afghanistan and every skirmish around the world involving British armoured vehicles.”

Body Engineering, which is a member of County Durham Engineering and Manufacturing Network (CDEMN), now produces components for mining and the subsea industry with parts ranging from millimetres in length to 200kg in weight.

David said: “What we are finding is a lack of skilled engineers for the specialist work that is required. What we thought was that it was better to take someone on who is young and enthusiastic and with Darlington College’s help train them up to the level we need for the demands of modern engineering. I’m thrilled that this person turned out to be my own son.”

Will added: “At sixth form I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. My friends were busy filling out their UCAS applications, but I wanted to do something more practical. My dad offered me the apprenticeship and it is going really well. I would love to take over the family business one day.”

Darlington College Business Development Advisor for Engineering Paul Clark said: “Succession in family businesses is a real concern as there are so many careers young people can choose nowadays. We are delighted to help Body Engineering continue in its long and illustrious history by helping to train the next generation.

“Apprenticeships offer an attractive alternative to university as an initial starting point, where students can learn the skills and theory at college and then employ them in the businesses where they work – and they get paid while they learn.  We always encourage progression into Higher Education through the HNC and HNDs following successful completion of their apprenticeship.”

This year’s EMCON event is at the Xcel Centre on Thursday, October 18, and will see hundreds of exhibitors and visitors come together to network and promote their business to a vast audience of potential customers.