Friday, 21 August 2009

Steel skills boost for Wales

A new £7 million programme to help Wales’ steel industry develop new products and technologies for the 21st century has been announced by Education Minister, Jane Hutt.

The STRIP (Steel Training Research and Innovation Partnership) project will make use of European Structural funds to support Welsh universities and colleges in improving the industry’s competitiveness, the Minister said.

It will ensure the higher level skills needed by the industry – providing Masters and Doctorate studies for graduates across Wales as well as training and up-skilling existing workers.

Led by Swansea University together with Bangor, Cardiff and Glyndwr universities, and collaborating with 22 companies who make up the partnership, the scheme will receive £4 million from the Convergence European Social Fund as well as funding from the university and industry partners.

The aim will be to develop specialists who can lead the way in creating innovative steel products and technologies, as well as undertake projects in areas such as carbon capture and renewable energy to secure the industry’s future sustainability.

The project will work closely with large steel companies with bases in Wales and with smaller companies who make up a vital supply chain for the material to identify their training needs.

It will help these businesses to lead Wales out of recession and will complement existing Assembly Government work with SEMTA Sector Skills Council to upgrade skills in the metals sector and the provision of skills training for steel businesses experiencing short time working through the acclaimed ProAct scheme.

Education Minister Jane Hutt said:

"The STRIP project will deliver tomorrow’s steel technologists and equip people working in the industry with new skills and knowledge.

“I am delighted that this project will harness the world-class assets in universities and leading companies – and provides the extra impetus provided by our management of European funds where we are committed to focus on vital sectors of the Welsh economy.”

Made up of a pan-Wales consortium of leading science and engineering academics, STRIP has strong research and training links to the steel industry and with a number of strip steel and metal companies in the region.

The new initiative will enable individual companies to increase links with the higher education sector, encouraging the wider supply chain to take full advantage of the knowledge, skills and resources available. It will also help the industry respond effectively to the global challenges it faces in a fiercely competitive marketplace.

Deputy First Minister, Ieuan Wyn Jones, said:

“Steel is a key pillar of the Welsh advanced manufacturing base – and to secure its future it is vital for the industry to re-group, re-train and re-equip for the upturn of the global economy post-recession. To succeed in this ambition we must secure top quality individuals with high level skills to drive forward the industry and boost economic growth.”

Swansea University’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Richard B Davies, said:

“This is a hugely significant and timely project. Swansea University’s School of Engineering is ranked 8th in the UK for materials and metallurgy and has a long and successful record of collaborating closely with the steel industry in Wales.

“This project builds upon existing collaboration - but on a larger scale and with a renewed sense of purpose in helping to deliver a stronger post-recession economy – with each partner university mobilising their research strengths and facilities to support the high level skills, high value added end of the steel industry.”

Kevin Bygate, Business Development Director Corus Colors, said the initiative was critical to address high level skills shortages faced by the industry

“The products of Corus Colors are the most specified in the world for the building envelope because of the product quality and their functional features. Much of what we market today and what we will market tomorrow is based on work done at the Sustainable Coatings Centre at Swansea University’s School of Engineering and as part of the Engineering Doctorate programme.

“STRIP is an exciting initiative that will not only deliver high quality applied research but also address the critical high level skills shortages currently faced by Corus in Wales.”


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