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How to… bring advanced manufacturing to your area

Two councils in the north east of England are working together on an ambitious plan to boost skills and bring jobs to the area, as Jamie Hailstone reports

When it comes to regeneration and boosting the economy, sometimes two heads are better than one.

In the north east of England, South Tyneside and Sunderland councils are well on their way to realising their ambition to build a new International Advanced Manufacturing Park (IAMP), which will create thousands of new jobs, as well as boost skills in the local area for generations to come.

The park is planned on land that spans the boundaries of both authorities, near the Nissan car manufacturing plant.

Galvanising support

It was back in 2010 when the concept of the park, to exploit the potential of the A19 economic artery, was first discussed among both councils’ leaders and chief executives. Together they galvanised the support of ministers Greg Clark and Michael Fallon for a city deal, which highlighted the potential of developing the project.

Both councils have since been working on the plans and, subject to the planning process, a first phase of construction work could start later this year.

The leader of Sunderland council, Harry Trueman, says the lack of available industrial sites was a key factor in the inception of the IAMP.

‘We were finding automotive suppliers were looking for large sites here and we were not able to fit them in any of the remaining sites, so we started a process of looking at our core strategy. We then realised the 20 hectares north of Nissan would not be sufficient. We had to look at something bigger,’ Mr Trueman said.

‘The Nissan plant is quite close to the Sunderland/South Tyneside boundary and if we were going to do something significant then it would have to involve both authorities in terms of bringing land forward.’

It was highlighted how IAMP would cover more than 150 hectares of land with floorspace equivalent to more than 100 football pitches. Plus, it was expected to create more than 5,000 manufacturing jobs and attract more than £400m of investment.

Partnership working

The city deal pitch was successful and it has gone on to be designated a ‘nationally significant infrastructure project’ and had a government pledge of £42m towards the supporting infrastructure of new roads, bridges and environmental enhancements.

South Tyneside council leader Iain Malcolm explains: ‘Our partnership with Sunderland council is distinctive, in its strength and vision, as we are totally united in our goals to bring economic prosperity to the local area and the region.

‘To make it happen, we have established a joint venture between the two councils – IAMP LLP – and this will be the steering body for it,’ says Mr Malcolm.

‘We have also managed to secure central government and local enterprise partnership funding for the project.’

The final policy plans were approved by the cabinets of both councils last November and plans for the first phase are now lodged.

The two councils have also signed a memorandum of understanding with local colleges to ensure the local workforce will have the necessary skills to work at the park.

‘We came to the conclusion that manufacturing was a

big part of our future, and not just a big part of our past’

‘We’ve been identifying some of the companies who want to be on IAMP and what sort of skills they will need,’ says Mr Trueman.

‘We’ve had consultants look at what the eventual demand and mix of jobs will be.

‘The main gaps will be around the speed of growth, because we will have a number of companies coming onto the park all at once. Over time, the skills of some people can adjust, but it’s difficult to do that in a short period of time.

‘Qualified engineers take four years or more to train up. So, there has to be some recruitment from within the existing labour market as well.’

The Sunderland leader adds around two thirds of the jobs at the park will be at ‘operative level’, and they are hoping local people will be able to switch into those from other jobs.

The councils are also looking to offer training for people who are unemployed or have been made redundant, so they can take advantage of the opportunities IAMP can offer.

And the local authorities are also looking to develop a full transport plan, so all parts of the park are easy to access.

Not just jobs, but high quality jobs

Mr Malcolm said: ‘We’ve been working for a few years now on both sides of the border on raising the profile of manufacturing.

‘We started with a long look forward at how our economy was developing. We came to the conclusion that manufacturing was a big part of our future, and not just a big part of our past.

‘We want not just more jobs, but higher quality jobs. We also looked at understanding the location requirements of the companies we wanted to attract.

‘The area’s expertise in advanced manufacturing in aerospace and turbo technologies has led to significant interest and demand for facilities and land for new and expanding companies. The IAMP answers those needs, and provides purpose-built space for companies to grow and prosper.’

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