The right chemistry

WHEN Skills Minister David Lammy announced that a £10m National Skills Academy for the Process Industries would be based in the North-east, it was clear Teesside would be a major player.

WHEN Skills Minister David Lammy announced that a £10m National Skills Academy for the Process Industries would be based in the North-east, it was clear Teesside would be a major player.

Decades of industrial experience combined with the area’s educational and training excellence made Tees Valley an ideal choice for the academy’s nerve centre.

Development work has been taking place at Wilton.

But today the Evening Gazette can reveal the hub of the Skills Academy will be at Teesside University’s Innovation Centre.

It will provide key employers such as Sabic, SembCorp and Huntsman with the opportunity to become Skills Academy accredited training providers, alongside existing educational and training establishments.

Craig Crowther, chief executive of the National Skills Academy for the Process Industries, said 14 people will be employed by the academy, eight of whom will be based at Teesside University with the other six in industrial centres around the UK.

Professor Graham Henderson, the university’s vice chancellor, said: “Today’s announcement recognises the critical role of the process industries on Teesside in the UK economy.

“It also sends a very important message about developing skills at all levels for the process industries and about the role of higher education in working directly with the Skills Academy and the sector.

“The process industries are essential to our success, both here in the North-east and nationally; and the academy will be invaluable in developing the skills to help the sector flourish.”

Funding for the Academy, totalling £10m, has come from employers, the Learning and Skills Council and various regional development agencies.

The National Skills Academy Process Industries at the University of Teesside cements strong links with the industry, such as the Foundation Degree in Chemical Technology, launched in 2001, and commended in a quality review in 2003. Mr Crowther explained the university base would gather information from employers on vital skills needs, before advising training centres on what needed to be delivered.

“The general basis is the academy, based at the university, acts as a bridge between employers and providers, gathers information on their needs and develops programmes to address those needs,” he said.

“The delivery of skills will be achieved through employers on site or training providers.

“A number of centres on Teesside will form part of the skills academy, and the TTE Technical Training Group in South Bank will be one of those centres.

“The hub of the Skills Academy will develop specific programmes for training providers to deliver to answer the needs of industry.”

Of 120 training providers across the UK, 20 will be accredited as centres of excellence for the Skills Academy.

Mr Crowther said he expected a number of centres on Teesside, already recognised and highly valued by employers in the region, are likely to apply for such status.

Employers and training providers who deliver programmes will all be branded as Skills Academy training providers or centres of excellence, showing their commitment to providing a skilled workforce for the sector.

Mr Crowther said a huge number of process industry employers on Teesside had pledged their support.

“Companies on Teesside are supporting what we are doing, and SABIC invested a significant amount,” he said. “SembCorp, who own the Wilton site, have also been very strong supporters, Huntsman, Artenius, Croda and pretty much every Teesside company.”

Mr Crowther said the Skills Academy was vital to Teesside in particular, with £7bn of investment in our process sector expected in the next eight years.

He said: “From a Teesside perspective, what we are looking for this to do is to ensure that skills shortages don’t hold the sector back. We already have lots of good employees in the region, but we need more of them, particularly with the age profile of employees not being in our favour.

“We need to make sure that the quality of training people can access is as good as it can be so that we have skilled people to attract more inward investment creating the commercial opportunities vital to the success of the sector on Teesside and across the whole of the UK.”

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