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Groundbreaking manufacturing and engineering centre of excellence bid
Hundreds of new jobs could be created by a groundbreaking centre of excellence – the first of its kind in the country – being launched in Keighley to get young high-fliers into manufacturing and engineering.
The ambitious initiative – part of a wider £9 million investment in youth employment under the Get Bradford Working banner – will teach teenagers from 14 years old the skills to prepare them for future top jobs in the industry.
The pioneering project – due to start in September next year – will involve the Leeds City College Keighley Campus, the town’s Oakbank School and Fab Lab, which teaches young people how to use cutting-edge technology.
Fab Lab director and Keighley foundry boss, Mick Milner, said the scheme was a “great thing”, which could transform the future fortunes of industry in the town and give new opportunities to its youngsters.
“There is currently a desperate shortage of people coming into manufacturing and engineering and a serious dearth of management potential,” said Mr Milner, chairman of Leach & Thompson in Dalton Lane.
“We are short of skilled technicians, technologists and senior managers within the sector.
“There is a perception of manufacturing as being grimy and offering poor pay and job prospects, but that is totally wrong. Things have changed. There are a lot of people in the industry earning £50,000 to £100,000 and more.
“Workers who saw their companies close in the 1970s and 80s are telling their grandchildren they shouldn’t go into manufacturing, there’s no future. We have to transform that culture.
“And we have to get away from the notion the industry is just for kids who are ‘good with their hands’ but not academic. We have not got enough people coming out of university – science, maths and engineering graduates.”
Mr Milner warned the so-called industrial centre for advanced manufacturing and engineering would not provide a “quick fix” and would need long-term backing.
“It’s got to last for two, three, four decades,” he said.
“It will take time to turn things around. It won’t happen overnight.
“But I am very excited about the initiative and what it could achieve.”
He said it was essential that businesses got involved and gave their backing.
Initially the scheme is expected to cater for around 15 young people a year, who would not need to be students at the college or Oakbank.
Five centres of excellence covering different industries are planned across the district.
They form a major part of Get Bradford Working, which was set-up to deal with employment issues in the district and represents £9 million of investment to create jobs, apprenticeships and a "transformational curriculum" for 14 to 19-year-olds.
Of that money, £7.7m is from the Council and £1.5m from Government funding and business contributions.
Keighley councillor Khadim Hussain, the Lord Mayor of Bradford, said it was important that young talent across the district was nurtured.
“Bradford has one of the highest populations of under 16s in the country and we have got to ensure we have provision in place for them,” he said.
“We made a commitment in the council budget to provide for apprenticeships and get more young people into work, and this is a continuation of that.
“The centres of excellence will encourage and help develop the talents of our young population.”
Jan Smithies, a Keighley West councillor, said she was delighted a centre was being set-up in the town and that Oakbank – where she is a governor – was involved.
“It’s going to cover a whole range of skills levels,” she added.
“We still have a relatively high number of manufacturing companies in Keighley and this is a great opportunity for the town.”
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