“Take action or face the consequences”

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COMPANIES in Hartlepol and East Durham need to be more active in finding a workforce for the future.

 And if they don’t, the lack of skills in the process sector could be “potentially damaging,” a conference heard.

 The North East Process Industry Cluster (NEPIC), which has member companies in areas including Seal Sands, held a conference at the Ramside Hall Hotel, near Durham City.

 Speakers at the meeting included NEPIC chief executive Dr Stan Higgins, who said: “We need all North-East businesses to respond to this agenda and do their bit in both taking on apprentices and providing work placements for graduates. If they do this they will solve the skill shortage.

 “By participating in the various skills schemes, companies can interface with some of the best young talent in the region, they then have the opportunity to recruit this talent.

 “If every technical business in this region took just one apprentice every couple of years, we would not have this problem looming ahead of us.”

 Fellow speaker James Ramsbotham, chairman of the North East Chamber of Commerce, outlined the importance of a healthy skills ethos amongst companies.

 With recent research suggesting that over 8,500 skilled people across the region will be retiring from the engineering sector before 2016, considerable danger is being posed to the industry, he said.

 He added: “The North-East boasts some of the best parts of the UK economy and we’re fortunate to have such dedicated and successful businesses blazing a trail in the process, manufacturing and engineering sectors.

 “However, it is not just the responsibility of our large firms and excellent schools, colleges and universities to ensure our future workforce is equipped with the requisite skills. This issue is something that we must address throughout the business community and while we have a plethora of large companies dedicated to apprenticeships and employee development, not enough is being done by the SMEs in regional supply chains to address the serious skills shortage.”