A multi-million pound training centre aiming to tackle a looming skills shortage is up and running in Huddersfield.
The state-of-the-art National Process Manufacturing Centre at St Andrew’s Road, Turnbridge, is already training its first intake of 70 apprentices to help equip the Yorkshire region’s chemical, pharmaceutical and food manufacturing companies with the skilled employees they will need to replace an ageing workforce in the decades ahead.
Kirklees College provided a sneak preview of its £5m centre before on official opening on Friday.
The opening ceremony will be attended by representatives of many of the 60 companies and partner organisations – which have backed the project with funding and donations of plant, services and equipment – and the centre’s main funder, Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP), which pumped £3.1m of capital funding into the scheme.
Brian Lawson, head of process manufacturing at the centre, said: “We have apprentices from a whole range of companies and by 2019-2020 we expect to be operating at capacity with 300 trainees.
“We have had more than £700,000 of donations from employers because they really want this centre. It is a massive asset that will fulfil their needs and they are prepared to put a lot into it. The centre will provide training that they can’t get anywhere else locally or in the region.”
Mr Lawson, who spent 35 years in industry before joining the college staff 18 months ago, said: “The process engineering sector employs more than 47,000 people in the Leeds City Region.
“We have had the support of the LEP who have looked at their priorities and the labour market to see what skills are needed. We have a lot of skilled people in the sector, but it is an ageing workforce.”
The new centre, which will deliver new employer-led apprenticeships, includes a stainless steel processing plant allowing trainees to simulate on a small scale the manufacture of liquid-based products. The equipment previously operated in a factory in Leeds and enables trainees to work to the same standards and disciplines as they will in industry.
The centre also has a semi-automated packing line donated by Nestle with robotic equipment provided by Huddersfield-based Olympic Technologies Ltd. There are also classrooms, workshops and IT facilities.
Construction work on the centre began in July last year but planning began in 2012 after the need for the centre was identified. Organisations involved in the initial project group included Kirklees College, Kirklees Council and agri-chemical company Syngenta.
Other companies supporting the project have included Bradford crop protection products firm Nufarm UK Ltd, Batley’s Fox’s Biscuits, Meltham and Mirfield-based textile firm Camira Fabrics and major names such as Nestle, Kodak, Coca-Cola and BASF.
What goes into the building and equipping of Huddersfield’s new £5m process manufacturing centre?
- 10,000 bricks forming external envelope/ retaining wall
- 15,000 blocks forming internal walls (including 2000 blocks to form lift shaft)
- 1500sq metres of cladding
- 10 miles of cables
- 300 litres of paint
- four miles of service pipework
- five main plant items, including tanks and vessels
- 30 ancillary plant items such as pumps
- 46 instruments, including temperature probes and level sensors
- 154 valves
35 flexible hoses