Plans to build a multi-million pound training centre on South Yorkshire’s Advanced Manufacturing Park have won the praises of Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.
Mr Clegg told Star Business that Sheffield University’s new training centre could play a major part in encouraging young people to take up a career in engineering and showing how academic studies and research could create practical products with world wide markets.
Contrasting the achievements of the great Victorian engineer Brunel with the activities of former Barclays Bank chief Bob Diamond, Mr Clegg said: “It was Brunel, not bankers that made this country great and it is Brunel, not Bob Diamond, who should be the role model for the next generation.
“What Sheffield University has been brilliant at is showing that academic research isn’t solely theoretical. It can be applied to the real world and used to make objects you can touch and feel.
“A lot of youngsters have been looking for this kind of vision.”
Speaking earlier at the launch of the centre, Mr Clegg had criticised the glamorisation of financial services over manufacturing and academic qualifications over technical skills.
“We have persisted in the snobbery that says that the only good thing you can do after leaving school is to get an academic qualification and we have not cherished and valued a technical education on the same basis,” said Mr Clegg.
The AMRC Training Centre, due to open in 2013, is intended to provide a ladder of training that caters for everyone from apprentices to PhD students and professionals, giving them the opportunity to step into training from work and vice versa and enabling them to climb as far up the ladder as they want and are able to.
The centre will cater for 250 apprentices and is being part funded by a £9.2 million Regional Growth Fund grant.
Sheffield University Vice-Chancellor Prof Keith Burnett said: “The Manufacturing Sector need to be proactive to rebalance the economy. High levels of skills are what will make the difference when we compete on a global basis in technology and leadership.
“What we are doing together to regenerate our region and to regenerate UK manufacturing is wasted if our research and equipment is not matched by skilled people. We need young people ready to accept the jobs we create and to take the UK forward.
“Together with colleagues from Rolls-Royce and Boeing, as well as with over 40 companies in the engineering supply chain, our partnership has shown that this region is a world-class hub for advanced manufacturing. We are not just creating knowledge and manufacturing breakthroughs. We are creating the skilled workers at all levels who will secure this for the future. This is the crucial next step in the wonderful work here at the AMRC and together as we make a step change in advanced manufacture.”