Kevin Fitzpatrick, vice president, Nissan UK Manufacturing Operations, welcomed North East Chamber of Commerce members to the event at the company’s Wearside plant, alongside NECC chief executive, James Ramsbotham.
Kevin provided an insight into the successful growth of NMUK, spoke about the importance of skills development within the engineering sector and outlined the importance of the Nissan supply chain.
He said: “The UK is the seventh biggest manufacturing economy in the world supporting over three million jobs in the country, but we need to keep investing in skills if the sector is to continue growing. From taking on apprentices to training their existing workforce, businesses of all sizes need to take responsibility for making sure this happens.”
Members also took part in a tour of the plant, which is the largest car manufacturing plant in the UK and also the most productive in Europe.
James Ramsbotham applauded Nissan’s approach to apprenticeships and outlined the importance of a healthy skills ethos amongst companies.
With research suggesting that over 8,500 skilled people across the North East will be retiring from the engineering sector before 2016, considerable danger is posed to the industry, with many companies reaching full capacity in their ability to recruit and deliver.
James said: “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 potentially serious skills shortage.
“Around 80% of our engineering firms do not have apprentices or are not engaged in the skills development agenda. It is vital that these companies explore the potential of recruiting apprentices – motivated learners who can be moulded to meet the needs of the individual business.
“I would urge all firms to consider apprenticeships. It is not only good for your business, it is also good for regional business.”
Read more on Apprenticeships HERE