New academy to close chemistry skills gap

A NEW training centre which will help ensure the future of hundreds of businesses in the North-East chemical industry and help redress the region’s skills shortage has been unveiled.

A NEW training centre which will help ensure the future of hundreds of businesses in the North-East chemical industry and help redress the region’s skills shortage has been unveiled.

David Lammy, Minister for Skills, announced yesterday that the National Skills Academy for the Process Industries will be based in the North-East.

One likely base for the centre is Wynyard on the outskirts of Hartlepool, although other sites on Teesside are being considered.

Regional development agency One NorthEast is putting £1.3m into the scheme and this is being matched with money from many of the region’s 500-plus chemical companies.

The centre, which will ensure there is a “national curriculum” used by all of the region’s 28 training providers, is likely to create 25 jobs in its own right.

But chemical industry experts say that with thousands of new jobs being created in the sector in the next few years it will prove invaluable in training North-East workers for these well-paid jobs.

Dr Stan Higgins, chief executive of the North East Process Industry Cluster (NEPIC) said “We will need to fill around 8,000 new posts in the sector over the next few years.

“This centre will set a gold standard for the level of training to be required by the region’s 28 universities, colleges and training providers which run courses training workers in this sector. At the moment there is a 25% skills gap in the sector and this needs to be addressed. This is a major step forward in ensuring we have the skilled workforce to take us forward.”

He added: “Securing the academy hub is further proof that we mean business in this region and that we fully intend to build on our strength and secure more investment going forward. Teesside and Middlesbrough in particular should be proud to be a leading location for the nation’s process industry sector.”

Ian Williams, One NorthEast director of business and industry, said: “The process industries sector is hugely significant to the on-going success of the North-East economy. One NorthEast is delighted to be able to support its further development by investing £1.35m into the new National Skills Academy which will help put in place the skilled workers of tomorrow to ensure this sector’s future prosperity.

George Ritchie, SVP SembCorp Utilities and chairman NEPIC Skills & Education Engagement said: “This is great news and a major step forward for the sector.

“It gives us the opportunity, particularly in skills development, to tackle meaningfully the identified shortages and upskilling of current employees. We need this to ensure that the process industry continues to grow and prosper and to be seen as an attractive workplace offering great career opportunities.”

The academy will work directly with employers to identify skills gaps, help company’s up-skills their workforce and develop a training infrastructure across the UK that better supports the sectors needs. It will operate out of a hub based in the North-East but it will also have regional offices throughout the UK to ensure that specific training needs unique to each region are met.

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer