A NETWORK to boost training for workers in Britain’s £23bn chemicals and plastics industry was launched in West Yorkshire by a Government minister.
Rosie Winterton, Minister of State for Transport and also Minister for Yorkshire and the Humber, unveiled the National Skills Academy for Process Industries at an event held at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, West Bretton.
The academy aims to improve the skills of workers in the chemical, plastics and pharmaceuticals industries.
It has set a target of recruiting 24,000 apprentices and 10,000 graduates to help the industry compete on a global stage.
Guests were welcomed to the launch by academy regional manager Dr Iain Taylor.
Speakers included Dr Jane Mockford, chief executive of the Huddersfield-based chemical industries support group Yorkshire Chemical Focus, and Clive Harrop, European operations director of Linpac Plastics, based at Castleford.
The new academy will give employers a major say in the design and delivery of training courses to help tackle skills shortages affecting companies across the region.
It is one of several established by the Government in response to the Leitch Report on the need to improve workplace skills.
Its activities include creating a Good Practice guide – an industry-wide central employee skills registry – and developing ways for existing staff to have their skills verified and recorded.
It also offers employers expert skills assessment and advice.
It is also developing a new Gold Standard training level that will create a common standard of transferable skills to allow every employee and employer to map out career paths and measure performance.
Ms Winterton said: “Since becoming Minister for Yorkshire and the Humber I have made the skills agenda one of my key priorities. It is one that is shared across business, industry, education and among young people themselves.
“It is vital for individuals to make the most of their potential and it is vital to our region’s prosperity and our future.”
She added: “Each sector of the UK’s process industries has different needs and having a regional arm based in Yorkshire and the Humber will mean businesses have instant access to expert help and guidance.”
Philip Jones, academy chief executive officer, said: “The industry spends about £650m on training, but much is unaccredited and unco-ordinated.
“Our aim is to bring together and simplify the training and support strands, help employers identify what help they need and give them choices about where and how they access it.”
He added: “As an industry we are well aware of the problems of skills gaps at various levels, a lack of apprentices coming through to replace an ageing workforce and a struggle to attract staff at supervisory levels.’’