THE Prime Minister has praised North-East industrialists for putting manufacturing and engineering at the forefront of economic growth and job creation.
Prime Minister David Cameron has put his backing behind the newly-formed North East Skills Alliance, chaired by Kevin Fitzpatrick of Nissan and made up of representatives from all 12 local authorities, including Hartlepool Borough Council and Durham County Council.
It also features champion employers, business membership organisations, training providers and the National Apprenticeship Service.
The Alliance’s aim is to almost double the number of apprentices recruited in the sector this year while also taking on more graduates and upskilling existing workforces.
They also want to get the message across to employers, particularly small and medium-sized firms, that there is unprecedented support to develop the skills businesses need to help recruit and train young people as well as adult apprentices, and make the process of hiring apprentices as easy as possible.
Mr Cameron said: “The North-East is leading the way and punching above its weight in manufacturing and engineering.
“The Government wants to get the economy back on track, drive job creation and create opportunities for people across the country and the North East Skills Alliance is helping us do just that.
“We are also supporting the region’s ambition to champion growth through the award of £93m from the Regional Growth Fund to 50 firms and organisations promising at least 8,500 new jobs.
“The Alliance is a great example of how businesses, institutions and local councils are working together to achieve common goals, and I wish them every success for the future.”
Last month Mr Cameron met with Trevor Arnold MBE, director of engineering consultants PX Limited, to discuss the issue.
Trevor is also due to meet the minister for skills, education and lifelong learning, John Hayes, in the near future.
Mr Arnold said: “Our region has a proud record and the Alliance is determined to take a common approach to drive home the message that there are excellent career prospects, the potential to tackle unemployment in the long-term and, crucially, the chance to make sure apprentices and existing employees have the skills required to ensure the North-East continues to perform as a world class region.”
The North East Skills Alliance for Advanced Manufacturing is being co-ordinated by Semta, the sector skills council for science, engineering and manufacturing technologies. They say around 8,500 skilled workers are due to retire in the next six years and a further 15,000 employees need to improve their skills.
Apprenticeship start-ups are already 20 per cent higher against the same period last year and the Alliance hopes a series of initiatives will make it easier for firms to understand the benefits of apprenticeships, leading to a big rise in time for the September intake.
Lynn Tomkins, Semta’s UK operations director, said: “To have the Prime Minister’s support is a real plus. Businesses in our advanced manufacturing sector have the opportunity to seize the moment and ensure this region is a driving force for the UK’s economy for years to come.”