BUSINESS secretary Dr Vince Cable has paid his first ever visit to JCB headquarters for an insight into how the Staffordshire success story develops skills for the future.
The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills was welcomed by JCB chairman Lord Anthony Bamford at the JCB Academy in Rocester, technical academy for 14 to 19-year-olds.
He was shown around classrooms equipped with more than £1 million worth of modern engineering equipment by chairman of governors David Bell and head teacher Jim Wade.
After his tour, Dr Cable was welcomed to the nearby JCB World Headquarters by JCB CEO Graeme Macdonald where he reviewed a line-up of JCB machines for construction and agricultural markets.
The visit comes 48 hours after Lord Bamford delivered his maiden speech in the House of Lords in which he highlighted the importance of technical education to the national economy and called for a coherent long-term industrial strategy to support the future growth of manufacturing as a vital component of the UK economy in the future.
Dr Cable and Lord Bamford then discussed the benefits of vocational training as opposed to university study, and a combination of the two.
Dr Cable said: “I think both the university route and the vocational route are equally good for young people wanting to go into manufacturing.”
Lord Anthony Bamford, chairman of JCB, said: “We have 500 youngsters from 14 to 19 at the JCB Academy and 50 undergraduates sponsored through university at any one time.
“They come to us during their summer holidays.
“I think day release courses are also very effective.
“I think vocational qualifications are essential for manufacturing and the importance of them is undermined.
“For instance it used to be all technical colleges, and look what happened in Stoke-on-Trent and the ceramics industry.
“It became a university and then what they had was lost.
“I think for the future, whether we have a Labour or Conservative government, we need to see a consistent strategy for engineering and manufacturing.
“I think Dr Cable’s visit has reinforced his view on apprenticeships on educating the future workforce.”
Dr Cable said on young firms aspiring to be like JCB: “JCB is an inspirational firm and their manufacturing success just proves it is possible.”