South West Durham Training looks to increase provision after UTC snub

The Northern Echo: Apprentice James Bates learns his trade at South West Durham Training, in Newton Aycliffe Apprentice James Bates learns his trade at South West Durham Training, in Newton Aycliffe

A TRAINING provider aims to double its apprenticeships after the Government snubbed the North-East's future workforce, The Northern Echo can reveal.

South West Durham Training (SWDT), in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, says it wants to take on 200 manufacturing and engineering apprentices every year.

Bosses hope the rise will help soften the blow delivered by ministers, who rejected a new university technical college (UTC) in Aycliffe.

The UTC plans, headed by the University of Sunderland, would have trained up to 600 engineers a year for local employers.

It had the backing of Hitachi Rail Europe, which wants 730 workers for its train-building factory that will open in spring 2016, and car chassis maker Gestamp Tallent, which plans to create 320 jobs.

Trevor Alley, SWDT's new chief executive, said it was committed to nurturing the region's next generation of workers.

Mr Alley, a part-time Ofsted inspector, said: “We are right in the middle of Aycliffe Business Park, so we couldn't be better placed, and we also have really good facilities and our highest success rates.

“The rejected UTC proposal was disappointing, but we are confident we can ensure the needs of employers in the region will continue to be fully met.

“We are speaking to schools, colleges, universities and specialist providers so that employers in the region, when they need workers, can come to us and we will be able to help.

“Doing that, we would be replicating what the UTC would be doing, and if the UTC doesn't happen, employers need an alternative.

“We need to increase our apprenticeships and I want to see a step change in our numbers, which we hope will see us take on 200 a year.”

Mr Alley, who took over at SWDT from Charl Erasmus, previously held director positions at Darlington College and City of Sunderland College.

He said he was excited at the prospect of getting more youngsters into work, with SWDT also celebrating its highest ever apprenticeship success rates of 85 per cent, which stand 12 per cent higher than the national average.

He said: “It’s an opportune time to be joining as the Government and key leaders form a united approach to safeguard the manufacturing and engineering industry.

“My experience in further education and as an Ofsted inspector will provide a firm foundation for more improvement and development of the business.

"I'm committed to playing an important role in developing the North-East’s manufacturing and engineering skills base.”

The UTC, which would have been the first of its type in the North-East, was turned down in favour of bids from London, Peterborough, Bolton, Warrington and Lincolnshire.

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