THE region's biggest training drive to develop the skills of manufacturing staff cont-inues, with more leading firms putting workers forward for accreditation.

More than 1,000 employees of automotive and high volume manufacturers in the region have now been awarded qualifications that recognise and reward their competence in the workplace.

The Accreditation of Manufacturing Staff (AMS) programme is being run by the Automotive Sector Strategic Alliance (Assa), in partnership with New College Durham, Gateshead and South Tyneside Colleges.

Two major firms using the project are R-Tek and Unipres, both in Washington, Wearside.

More than 250 staff have recently received NVQ level two in performing manufacturing operations, and a further 60 production workers are on course to gain the qualification next year.

R-Tek, which produces car interior trim components for firms such as Nissan, views the training as a cost-effective way of developing staff in line with industry standards.

David Steel, human resource and general affairs manager, said: "With the launch of the new Nissan Primera model next year, we were keen for all of our operational staff to be prepared for this period of change.

"The AMS project gave them an understanding of company processes and showed them that they had the skills and knowledge to cope with this new contract."

Unipres personnel officer Damien McKenna said: "Because Assa staff were able to observe and advise our operatives while they carried out their duties it was a really effective way to train."

Phil Mordey, AMS project manager with Assa, said: "The project not only serves to improve the performance of the company but also motivates employees."

For more details, call Phil Mordey on 0191-523 7476.