Improving the skills of staff in small to medium-sized firms may save 8,000 manufacturing jobs in the north east over the next 18 months, industry leaders and training organisations in the region claim.
They were responding to a report released last week which predicts jobs will go because of the continuing impact of the strong pound.
Cheap imports are forcing UK manufacturers to cut costs further according to the study, carried out for the Institute for Manufacturing by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research. It concludes that 160,000 jobs in UK manufacturing will be cut.
Paul Robson of the Automotive Sector Strategic Alliance (ASSA) said small and medium-sized firms in the north east need to follow the lead of Nissan and other big manufacturers by investing in skills training to improve productivity.
`We believe we can save manufacturing jobs,’ said Robson. `If we can succeed it should assist economic regeneration, as the region also strives to gain new jobs in the tourism and service sectors. We need to look positively at helping develop people so that we have the most productive businesses and the most highly skilled workers.’
The ASSA has helped place 200 young people with manufacturers in the region via the New Deal.
Jules Preston, managing director of Sunderland Training and Enterprise Council, said: `We must follow the example of the automotive and high-volume manufacturing sectors. To do this we have to instill into small firms the skills to become world-wide operators.
`There is ample evidence that training not only develops individuals but helps businesses improve overall performance.’
Sunderland is the only UK city that has seen a rise in the number of manufacturing jobs, according to a survey earlier this year by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
John Robinson writes for Personnel Today magazine