THE NUMBER of apprentices has rocketed in Keighley thanks to the town’s Centre of Excellence for Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering.

In 2015 Keighley had only three apprentices in the two vital employment sectors but now there are 70 working at local firms.

In addition there are 56 fabrication and welding apprentices.

The number of young people studying the Level 2 Diploma in Mechanical Engineering has quadrupled, and a further 21 last September began studying for a BTEC level 3 or 4 Diploma in Engineering. Almost 30 youngsters still at school are also involved in the project

The Centre of Excellence, set up in 2015, is led by Keighley College with involvement from businesses, Bradford Council and Beckfoot Oakbank School.

By boosting the number of young people entering training, the objectives have been to build the ‘workforce pipeline’, improve productivity and secure growth.

News of the success of the Centre of Excellence was revealed in a report recently presented presented to Bradford Council’s regeneration and Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

The report outlined progress on a range of Keighley regeneration projects including traffic schemes, job creation initiatives and new buildings.

The report revealed that following the Centre’s opening, businesses that used to look outside the district for the training of their apprentices now turned to Keighley College to meet their needs.

The report added: “Airedale has a proud and active manufacturing and engineering sector with many local companies exporting worldwide.

“Whilst some businesses manufacture complete items, many other local companies provide the components and services that complete other manufacturers’ products, for example Airedale Springs and Keighley Laboratories.”

The Leeds City Region’s Local Enterprise Partnership has been approached about potential funding for expanding the Centre of Excellence.

The Centre of Excellence for Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering is one of several Industrial Centres of Excellence set up across Bradford district to help improve the job prospects of young people.

Last month it was revealed that for new Centres of Excellence would be set up in Bradford district in the next two years in subjects ranging from law to the arts.

In 2016, it was revealed that the first cohort of learners at the Keighley Centre had a success rate of 89 per cent compared to 73 per cent before the ICE started.

Of a group of Oakbank students studying GCSE engineering at the centre, 59 per cent gained between A* and C, compared to a national average of 40 per cent.