The man at the helm of an £82m train building factory in County Durham says it’s essential to create a pathway for young people into industry as he throws his weight behind the Journal’s Proud to Back Apprenticeships campaign.
Hitachi Rail will start building trains in Newton Aycliffe in 2016 and wants skilled workers for its 730-job plant.
This week, plans to build the region’s first university technical college (UTC) were approved, creating a new engineering centre of excellence in the region.
The college will be based next door to Hitachi, training up to 600 people a year. Bosses hope to open the college in 2016 and help to plug a forecast skills gap of 8,500 posts.
The manufacturing giant’s plant manager Darren Cumner says by providing a mix of academic and technical education, young people will be better equipped for the world of work.
He said: “It’s encouraging to see the Journal’s campaign to promote apprenticeships because that is precisely why we have sponsored a technical school to be built right on our doorstep.
“It is essential that students receive the very best education needed to help them into employment or further education.
“Our vision is that these young people will become the future engineers, technicians and managers at our plant in Newton Aycliffe.
“Given our ambitions for growth, we hope that some will continue to pursue a career within our future UK rail operation, or go on to work in Hitachi’s rail business around the globe.”
Sponsored by Hitachi, the University of Sunderland and automotive manufacturer Gestamp Tallent, the UTC will devote 60% of its curriculum to academic study and 40% to technical study for 14 to 16-year-olds, while for 16 to 19-year-olds, the split will be 40% academic study and 60% technical study.
As an ambassador of the wider Newton Aycliffe business park, Hitachi will be involved in work experience placements, site visits, equipment contribution, lecturing support, company mentoring and guaranteed interview experience.
Mr Cumner says by providing skills training to students, the region is tackling the problems that exist around skills shortages and unfilled vacancies.
“We’re spending more than £1m at Newton Aycliffe on our training model,” he said. “It reflects the Government’s objectives to support skills development in the region and across the engineering sector, tackling the problems that exist around skills shortages.
“A lot of countries in Europe are focussing more on vocational skills and making young people employable.
“This technical college is indicative of our intentions to invest not just in the rail manufacturing sector, but also the future of the region’s young people in the long term.”