Talking West Cheshire

Future skills needs for the chemical industry in Cheshire West under the spotlight

6 June 2012

Chemical industry specialists from all over Europe were brought together by Cheshire West and Chester Council at a conference which aimed to support future chemical skills needs in the Borough.

The event – part of the European-wide ChemClust project – concentrated on looking at new ways of ensuring that the skills levels in the chemical industry remain competitive, and also how to attract interest from young people in a career in the chemical industry.

Cheshire West and Chester Council were very pleased to have received representatives from all the major regions in Europe that have a high number of chemical sites, as the Borough is keen to reduce any skills gaps in the chemical industry, and information was shared with their European counterparts.

Delegates were addressed by Doctor Jenny Clucas, UK Skills Strategy Director for COGENT, who is also a former CEO of Chemical Northwest. COGENT operate across the UK and deliver nationally approved skill set training for the chemical, oil and gas industries.

The results of this collaborative research will go to top decision makers both in Whitehall and in the EU to attract more funding and provide increased skills provision both in the Borough and across the rest of the European Chemical industry.

Cheshire West and Chester were also pleased with the decision by the UK Science Council to interview students from Whitby High School in Ellesmere Port as part of the ChemClust project research carried out locally.

The Council’s vital role in supporting Cheshire’s chemical industry is backed up by the Council being part of the European Chemical Regions Network (ECRN).

Councillor Herbert Manley, a former ICI executive, and Executive Member for Prosperity, serves on the executive of the ERCN Board and brings his experience to ensure that Cheshire has a clear voice in any EU decisions affecting the chemical sector.

The Council’s participation in the ChemClust project is an INTERREG project funded by the EU and is managed by the Council’s External Funding and Partnerships team.

Councillor Manley said: “The chemical industry in the Borough is one of the largest employers in our area and is internationally recognised as a centre of excellence and a key growth sector.

“Supporting the chemical industry and its future skills requirements is of significant importance and we are doing all in our power to maintain this competitive edge.

“It is also extremely important that the European Chemical Regions work together and focus on three key areas which include the use of chemical sites as knowledge centres, promoting open innovation and co-operation between educators, and to use skills foresight to address skills gaps in chemical industry dependant areas, both currently and for future skill needs.”

Major points involving the chemical industry in the Cheshire West and Chester Council area include:

  • The sector is Cheshire's West’s largest exporter with 50% of production sold in European and world markets.
  • With a history of producing salt and alkalis stretching back more than 300 years, Cheshire West is a centre of international excellence.
  • Its extensive economic, transport and skills infrastructure has enabled Cheshire West to sustain its remarkable success in attracting inward investment resulting in even greater diversity, especially in bulk, speciality and fine chemical production.
  • Cheshires West’s bulk chemical production supplies other local key sectors such as pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, textiles, environmental technologies, food and plastics processing.
  • Many world class university research departments are within a 40 minute drive. These produce more than 900 graduates and postgraduates each year in chemistry or chemical, process and energy engineering.
  • Cheshire West has space for companies to grow on high quality sites that enjoy prime transport and communication links.
  • The External Funding and Partnerships team has been hosting finance, innovation and funding events to support growth in the Council area and to ensure a skilled workforce maintains and increases the competitive edge.

ChemClust

Photo caption: Pictured at the Conference is Doctor Hanny Nover from the ECRN, representatives from the European regions, Councillor Herbert Manley and Francis Lee from the Council.