Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Safeguard Future with Apprentices, Firms Told

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Safeguard Future with Apprentices, Firms Told

Article excerpt

Byline: Iain Laing

AFORMER apprentice and an engineering graduate joined forces with leading North East business figures yesterday in urging firms to help tackle the region's skills gap by taking on more people like them.

Together they addressed representatives of 39 businesses from the region's science, engineering and manufacturing sectors, delivering the message that only by investing in training, education and young people will North East businesses be able to safeguard their future success.

The Maximising Your Business Growth seminar, held at the Gateshead College Academy for Sustainable Manufacturing and Innovation, at Nissan, was the first in a series of initiatives organised by sector skills council Semta.

Opening the event, Semta's North East regional council member Mike Matthews said: "Skilled people are becoming increasingly difficult to employ and retain, meaning there is a distinct skills shortage in the North East. Upskilling our workforce is going to be critical for the survival of businesses."

With North East unemployment at a record high, around 8,500 skilled workers due to retire in the next six years and a further 15,000 employees needing to improve their skills to ensure the North East can perform as a world-class region, he believes the time is right for companies to invest in people.

Matthews, managing director of Stockton-based car parts maker Nifco, added: "With university fees rising, young people are looking for different ways to get on. However, only 16% of North East engineering and manufacturing companies currently recruit apprentices or graduates.

"Those that do are able to keep up with technical developments by training people for specific jobs depending on their business needs, and they find themselves with a motivated, empowered and competitive workforce." This sentiment was echoed by the two young speakers at the event.

Ex-apprentice Andrew Burgess, 25, from Bedlington, Northumberland, completed his engineering apprenticeship at Smith Electric Vehicles in 2009. …

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