AN historic training provider is expanding after negating the mining sector’s decline with fresh ventures, The Northern Echo can reveal.

MRS Training and Rescue has introduced a new mobile confined space tuition unit to complement its North-East base.

The organisation, which trains in excess of 3,000 people in the region every year, was founded more than 100 years ago to respond to emergencies underground.

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However, MRS, which employs 14 staff at a centre in Houghtonle- Spring, south of Sunderland, that uses underground tunnels for exercise drills, has diversified following the fading reliance on coal, particularly over the last 20 years.

Formerly known as Mines Rescue Service, MRS is now combining traditional offerings, such as confined space training and first aid, with working at height and firefighting courses.

It has also moved into the marine, renewable energy and power station sectors, and bought a mobile unit for confined space training, which officials say will provide flexibility to carry out teaching at customers’ premises.

Julie Wilson, marketing manager, told the Echo that while MRS has already attracted a number of high-profile clients, including Tata Steel, which has a base in Hartlepool, it remains keen to continue growing.

She said: “We are continuing to develop the business to capitalise on our one hundred-plus years of experience and expertise.

“A lot of people who go past our Houghton centre have no idea what happens here, but if you think of the major blue-chip companies, we are probably working with them.”

Ms Wilson said MRS, which became an employee benefit trust last year, works with education organisation City and Guilds and uses trainers with industry experience to provide the best possible service.

She added: “Many of the people who worked for MRS were exminers, so they had the expertise in terms of health and safety and particularly confined space training.

“Confined space was really the first thing we focused upon in terms of diversification and first aid was a big thing in the mining industry too.

“Our trainers can share their stories and we make the training as real-life as possible.”