Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Academy Is Formula for Success but It Will Face Challenges; Focus On: Process Skills the World Is a Very Different Place from That Which Greeted the National Skills Academy's Arrival on Teesside Just 12 Months Ago. but While the Global Economy Slows, the Pace Is Gathering at NSAPI's University Headquarters

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Academy Is Formula for Success but It Will Face Challenges; Focus On: Process Skills the World Is a Very Different Place from That Which Greeted the National Skills Academy's Arrival on Teesside Just 12 Months Ago. but While the Global Economy Slows, the Pace Is Gathering at NSAPI's University Headquarters

Article excerpt

ITS REPUTATION as an industry powerhouse allowed Tees Valley to successfully land the prestigious National Skills Academy for the Process Industries (NSAPI), beating off stiff competition from the North-west. But behind the back-slapping and fanfare that accompanied their arrival, process chiefs were under no illusion about the enormity of the task ahead of them when they unpacked their modest office in Teesside University's Innovation Centre last year.

Then as now, its aim was to avert a crippling skills crisis that leaves the sector facing a shortage of 20,000 workers in this region alone by 2014.

But NSAPI CEO Philip Jones could be forgiven for thinking he's now in a war zone without his battle gear.

The target hasn't changed and he's "absolutely" confident the recession won't prevent the academy from meeting - or even over-achieving - on it. But he acknowledges that the shifting economic sands will inevitably mean a review of how it goes about it.

Ultimately that will include the delivery of 8,000 NVQs, training 800-900 apprentices and establishing 170 accredited training centres across the UK. More immediately there's an ambitious plan to train 4,500 new apprentices across the country over the next three years.

"The process industry takes a longer-term perspective," he says. "While some companies are cutting their budgets, Government funding will help to subsidise training in these difficult times."

One of NSAPI's key early achievements has been to draw down an additional pounds 50m from the Train To Gain budget - an initiative delivered by the Learning and Skills Council - to train people up to a Level 3 national qualification.

The other is to have already met and talked to more than 20% of the UK's chemicals, polymers and pharma workforce - three key strands of the process sector.

But Philip says the hard work has only just begun. NSAPI's key target for next year is to assist a further 500 companies - in particular the SME community - which makes up around 80% of the sector's 10,800 companies in the UK. Meanwhile, it's conducting a full scale review of the services it planned to offer industry, in light of the seizmic shift in the economic environment.

"Employer-led training is exactly the reason why the academy was set up," he says. "One of the main criticisms in the past has been that training has not been fit-for-purpose."

NSAPI has attracted support and funding from regional development agency One North East, major international companies such as Wilton-based SABIC UK Petrochemicals and the North East Process Industry Cluster (NEPIC), which represents 350 local companies. And this support - as well as the Train to Gain funding boost - means that NSAPI is track to secure pounds 1.5m per year from private enterprise to support its activities.

Stan Higgins, chief executive of NEPIC, says: "NSAPI has become a key focus for the rest of the country. The concepts that led to the formation of NSAPI are good and still hold true today. …

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