Paul Drechsler, president of the CBI, visited Middlesbrough College to see first-hand the innovative ways in which skills are being developed for regional industry.
The former ICI worker, who spent 24 years on Teesside in the early part of his career, said the region had huge potential to grow through its skilled workforce.
Paul toured Middlesbrough College’s STEM Centre – with its sophisticated workplace environments designed by local industry that model life in the engineering, manufacturing and process industries.
He commended the approach of the College and its training arm – Northern Skills Group – both of which listen and work closely with industry to develop and provide skills solutions that match businesses’ requirements.
The CBI’s Regional Growth 2016 report highlighted the fact that businesses hold the answer to building a sustainable skills system.
Paul said: “North East economic growth in the years ahead will depend on having a labour force that can exploit new technologies and discoveries, so workers with a background in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) will increasingly be in demand.
“The Government’s new Industrial Strategy must help ensure that the skills needs of businesses can be effectively delivered at a local level. “The longer-term solution lies in making sure more of our young people have access to the rewarding nature of work in STEM-based careers and Middlesbrough College is making a real mark here on Teesside.
“There is more that we, as a business community, can and must do to share the excitement and wealth of opportunities that such careers can offer.”
Paul saw Middlesbrough College students and apprentices in action across the STEM Centre – developing practical experience in the simulated industrial environment, alongside important classroom-based knowledge.
Northern Skills Group works with more than 2,000 apprentices every year across a range of industries, and is currently helping businesses to prepare for changes involved in the Apprenticeship Levy.
Zoe Lewis, principal and chief executive of Middlesbrough College, said: “It was great to show Paul the bubbling ambition here in our region, and as an adopted Teessider himself, he knows just how tenacious and innovative the area is.
“At Middlesbrough College and Northern Skills Group we approach skills training as a partnership that is attuned to the needs of businesses.
“With devolution we have a great opportunity to shape skills provision for our region, and it is particularly encouraging that more businesses than ever before are investing their time and expertise in the development of programmes at the College to assure a pipeline of talent in the region for the longer term.”