SOUTH Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck has been given a vote of confidence by a leading borough business boss after impressing during a fact-finding visit of his plant.
Geoff Ford MBE said she showed a genuine interest in learning about leading high technology parts maker Ford Aerospace’s work and the problems facing the engineering and manufacturing sectors regionally and nationally.
Ms Lewell-Buck, who in May became the town’s first woman MP, spent more than an hour touring Ford Aerospace’s factory at Tyne Dock, South Shields.
The visit included viewing the shop floor and seeing staff at work as well as taking in the learning centre, where items from the firm’s long history are displayed.
She was also able to quiz Mr Ford, company chairman, on the firm’s new Ford Engineering Academy, a skills partnership with South Tyneside College, which will open for business by taking its first tranche of 14 trainees next month.
He was able to brief her on the aims of the academy, talk her through Ford’s 103-year history, describe its current success as a major employer, and warn her of a skills gap in manufacturing and engineering – and of its need to be addressed.
Mr Ford described the visit as “constructive” and one that bodes well for a strong future relationship between the award-winning company and the politician.
He said: “I was very impressed by her interest in Ford and in her desire to find out more about engineering and manufacturing generally.
“She looked at the work we do very much from a South Shields perspective and I believe she had a genuine interest in finding out about the business and the role we play in the town and beyond. We also talked about the new academy and the key role it will play in training apprentices as the workforce of the future.
“She was already aware of the skills gap in this sector and of the challenges facing businesses in South Shields.
“Hopefully this visit is just the start of a strong relationship.
“I think she will be a very good constituency MP.”
Ms Lewell-Buck said Ford Aerospace was a prime example of a hi-tech specialist manufacturing business that is one of the North East’s greatest strengths.
She added: “Ford has real roots in our community and is a perfect example of what the North East does best – highly-skilled manufacturing that is in demand from some of the biggest companies in the world.
“Geoff has done a tremendous job expanding the business and I’m very excited by the company’s latest initiative, the Ford Engineering Academy.
“Everything these young people learn will equip them with the skills and knowledge to set them on the path to an exciting and rewarding career.”
The Ford Engineering Academy will provide six months of training, with each young person enjoying a six-week work experience placement at Ford or at another regional manufacturing firm.
It is hoped those completing their training will be offered full apprenticeships with companies or go on to take an NVQ Level 3 apprenticeship at the college.