A NORTH-EAST training base is helping spearhead the global oil and gas sector’s development.

Delegates from around the world yesterday visited Darlington College’s C-State Subsea Training and Education Centre.

The facility, previously opened by Prince Andrew in a visit organised by The Northern Echo, has a £4m underwater robot, which is believed to be the first of its kind in the UK.

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Trainees can use the hydraulic remotely operated vehicle to support classroom studies.

Visitors from UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), which included members from the US, China and Australia, toured the site as they took in the UK’s key oil and gas centres.

The centre was developed through a partnership between the college, Darlington firm Modus Seabed Intervention, Maritime Training and Competence Solutions, Teesside University, Tees Valley Unlimited local enterprise partnership and Darlington Borough Council.

Nigel Ward, Modus’ commercial director, said: “We are pleased the training centre is putting Darlington on the map and creating interest internationally.

“This UKTI visit provides Darlington’s growing subsea industry with the opportunity to promote its specialist services worldwide and enables growing companies like Modus get footholds in new territories overseas.”

The Prince’s visit to C-State was part of a celebration to mark the success of the Foundation for Jobs programme.

The award-winning scheme is a joint initiative involving The Northern Echo, Darlington Borough Council and the Darlington Partnership of private and public sector organisations.

It has supported more than 3,000 young people aged 24 and under, creating more than 270 new apprenticeship places since its 2012 launch.

Prince Andrew said: “I wish the foundation every success as it endeavours to be that link between business and young people.

“What's going on here that is important is matching young people's desires and aspirations with the business need.

“The foundation is having an excellent run at it.

“The challenge is to get small and medium businesses to recognise that taking on an apprentice is a good idea.

“The apprentice won't be the finished article, but they need to be given the chance to gain experience.”