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College formula for success

The chemical industry in the North-west has received a shot in the arm from England's further education funding quango.

The Learning and Skills Council has awarded North College, in Manchester, extra funding as a Centre of Vocational Excellence (Cove) in the chemical industry.

David Lawrence, the principal, said: "The college is very proud to receive this award.

"It is an endorsement by the Learning and Skills Council of the excellent work that the college performs in this field."

The college becomes the only Cove for the industry.

It already has Cove status for gas installation and maintenance, and the latest development brings pound;600,000 in extra LSC funding which the college will use in a joint project with TTA Training, which provides courses for people in the industry.

The chemical industry employs 440,000 people in the North-west. It will now work with employers in the region to identify which skills are most needed by the industry.

The college claims a "huge" shortfall of skilled workers is predicted in the industry over the next 10 years.

Already the industry suffers from too many workers with poor literacy and numeracy.

The college will investigate ways of improving the appeal of jobs in the industry.

TTE, based in Ellesmere Port, South Wirral, has put 900 people through the Government's apprenticeship programme, with 95 per cent of these trainees going on to full-time employment.

It provides training for 30 companies in the chemical, pharmaceutical, power and processing industries.

COGENT, the new sector skills council for chemicals, presides over an industry that has become increasingly fragmented during recent years.

Many of the sites where people work are too small to have their own training facilities and some smaller companies are reluctant to give their staff time off for training.

Around half of the current workforce is qualified below Level 2 (GCSE equivalent) but a minimum of Level 3 (A-level equivalent) is increasingly being demanded by employers taking on new recruits.

A recent report by the Chemistry Leadership Council says at least 65 per cent of the workforce need to be trained to at least Level 3.

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