Engineering colleges are vital to attracting investment into Kirklees says a top politician.
That was the verdict from government cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith who was in Huddersfield today to meet apprentices at Kirklees College.
He met with dozens of young learners at the college’s engineering centre in St Andrew’s Road which has received £3.1m capital grant from a £17m pot that was secured last year for four further education colleges in the Leeds City Region through the government’s Local Growth Deal.
It is being used to create a new specialist process manufacturing training centre in partnership with local companies. The centre will equip apprentices with high level skills for the future.
Mr Smith’s visit coincided with today’s announcement that £54.6m will be channelled into the Leeds City Region’s Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to be used to help local business expansion, create jobs and build housing.
Mr Smith met with business leaders from companies such as Syngenta, Thomas Brown Engineering based in Crosland Moor and apprenticeship providers, Entice Project, before visiting students in one of the workshops to see what difference previous Local Growth Fund investment has been making to the engineering sector.
Mr Smith said: “This college is vital to attract more investment into the area. Without a college and courses like those offered here the rest of this doesn’t work.
“What we are seeing here is how this money is being spent –it’s really brilliant and is helping to bring apprenticeships and companies to the area.
“In Huddersfield we have a high proportion of manufacturers with jobs available.
“Their problem now is that they need more new properly skilled apprentices as their workforces are getting older.
“This training is critical for companies going forward.”
He added: “This money is unusual because it’s the first time the government has not said that the money should go on this or this. It’s those businessmen and women involved with the regional schemes who decide where this money would work best. This new set of funding will create thousands more jobs.”
Kirklees College principal Peter McCann said: “Kirklees College is extremely grateful for the grant to support improved training facilities for the key chemical, pharmaceutical and food sectors of our economy.
“I am also very grateful for the support of our partner employers, Kirklees Council and our MPs in ensuring this proposal came to Huddersfield.”
Nigel Wright, Syngenta learning advisor, said: “We need this funding to enable businesses to come together with colleges and get the right sort of training needed.
“Without us doing this, no one can move forward, even though we’re crying out for the right sort of people to come take on jobs.
“And the good thing about this regional funding is that it’s distributed in a way that means local companies are not heavily competing with each other.”