With the disappearance of pits and shipyards, manufacturing motors and their components is now a key industry in the North-east and one poised to play a significant part in the New Deal.
The Automotive Sector Strategic Alliance - brainchild of Nissan and Sunderland City Training and Enterprise Council - was born in response to the needs of the industry. It was set up by 45 Northeast firms in the sector to address skills shortages and to help with the development of staff already on the payroll.
Across the region, the alliance will be working with the employment service to fill 400 places at 10 colleges to train people in the New Deal target group. Gateshead College, part of the Tyneside Further Education Colleges Consortium, will be the first to take on people under the plan.
The need is acute: the industry expects to fill between 2,000 to 2,500 jobs in the region over the next two years and wants to be prepared.
Nissan's announcement of plans to launch a new model - production is due to start at the end of 1999 - was the direct impetus behind the alliance's involvement in the New Deal, according to Warren Snaith, its managing director. "We are working with colleges to design a manufacturing initiative which will take 18 to 24-year-olds off the dole and into new jobs as part of the New Deal.
"We are putting together a programme which will take people through initial assessment and induction, looking at attitudes and motivations."
They will then go on to a 22-week programme delivered by local colleges, working towards NVQ2 in manufacturing for the sector.
There is every possibility that those who make the grade will find high-quality employment. "Companies have pledged that anyone who successfully completes the manufacturing initiative will automatically be considered for job selection," said Mr Snaith.
David Cheetham, vice-principal of Gateshead College, said the partnership will be to mutual advantage and - with a strong chance of a job at the end - provide a good deal for previously unemployed young people.
Demand for skilled workers in the sector looks set to continue thanks to Nissan and the flourishing North-east components supply chain whose reach extends to car plants in the Midlands. Companies looking to invest in the UK could also be encouraged to locate in the North-east if the publicprivate sector partnership sends out a positive message.