New manufacturing academy aims to improve UK skills base

A new £14m national academy to raise manufacturing skills is to be launched today by the government.

Trade and industry secretary Alistair Darling will call for a ‘national mission’ to lift skills levels to compete with the growing economic powerhouses of China and India.

The new national academy is one of a series set up by government across sectors of industry. It will deliver courses designed for the first time by industry for industry, training 40,000 students a year by 2012.

Some of the biggest names in British manufacturing, including Rolls Royce, Caterpillar, Ford, GKN, BAe Systems, Airbus UK, Corus, VT Group and Nissan are backing the project.

The national centre in Birmingham will join up with lead colleges in each region of England delivering courses under the National Skills Academy brand.

Darling said: “Raising skills has to be a national mission. That is why some of the best-known manufacturers in the country are on board.

“The new skills academy for manufacturing can be the production line for the next generation of highly trained, highly motivated manufacturing workers. The country needs them.”

Employer and union support

EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation welcomed the new academy. Director general Martin Temple said: “The Leitch Review has put company skills at the top of the political agenda and the academy will be one of the means to realise his vision of higher skill levels and improving productivity.”

The Transport and General Workers Union, which has consistently called for a robust government approach to the haemorrhaging of skilled manufacturing jobs in the UK, gave a guarded welcome

“Skills training is obviously important if we are to rebuild our manufacturing base from the current situation of plant closures and relocation to countries with low labour costs,” said Tony Woodley, the union’s general secretary.

The government aims to have up to 12 academies for different industries operational by 2008. It is investing £90m in the programme, which will be delivered through the Learning and Skills Council working with employers and their Sector Skills Councils.

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