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Caithness.org News Bulletins -  November 2002

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A partnership of engineering firms from Caithness scooped a top training award on Thursday 14th November at the 15th National Training Awards, which took place at the Glasgow Hilton.

Over 350 representatives from the Scottish business community saw five organisations and individuals win National Training Awards for their achievements. A number of companies were also commended for their excellence in staff training - five nationals, five commendations and three receiving special training awards.

Launched in 1987, National Training Awards is recognised throughout the UK as the number one award for learning and skills development. NTA is an annual competition managed by UK Skills, sponsored in Scotland by the Scottish Executive in partnership with Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Scottish Enterprise and supported this year by Business am and the Glasgow Hilton.  The aim of the Awards is to identify organisations and individuals that can demonstrate exceptionally effective training which has had a significant impact on business or individual success.

Overall winner in the Partnership Category was the Caithness Engineering Training Consortium, comprising Subsea 7 (UK), JGC Engineering and Technical Services Ltd, and D Gow and Sons. This innovative partnership was set up in 1999 with help from Caithness and Sutherland Enterprise (CASE), part of the Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) network.

The establishment of this unique group was triggered by a range of recruitment issues created by the initial downturn in nuclear site work at Dounreay, followed by the upturn in demand for high quality engineering skills as a result of the decision to decommission the plant.

Local engineering firms were faced with a critical shortage of labour and skills and apprentice training had been limited at Dounreay because of uncertainty over the nuclear plant's future. The solution was to form a consortium of local companies with a view to sharing the training of Modern Apprentices across a broad spectrum of skills.

Ten engineering apprentices were recruited by the three companies in 1999 with ongoing recruitment in the subsequent years. To ensure all round skills abilities, the apprentices are rotated around the companies to experience, at first hand, different working practices within the various companies. The majority of training is delivered on-site with the underpinning knowledge and assessment services delivered by The North Highland College, Thurso.

The three companies are now committed to continuing the programme to enhance the available skills within the local community.

Guest speaker at the Awards this year is Dr Mo Mowlam, former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland with key note speaker, Deputy Minister for Enterprise, Transport and Lifelong Learning, Lewis Macdonald.

Alex Paterson, director of skills at Highlands and Islands Enterprise, said: "We are naturally delighted with the success of the engineering consortium in winning the partnership category in the National Training Awards. They have addressed the challenge of how to find the resources to train and qualify people to meet the rise and fall of contract work in this area. They have also been inspirational in meeting the challenges of consortium working with a determination to make it succeed. The success of the partnership, and indeed the increased number of award entries from the Highlands and Islands, is a reflection of the growing emphasis that local businesses attach to skills development."

Senior Director of Learning and Skills at Scottish Enterprise, Alan Sinclair added:
"Skills and learning are fundamental to our success as a nation and we should be in no doubt that the skills of our people will be the single most important weapon in our drive to build Scotland into one of the world's most successful economies. If we're to succeed, we need to ensure that the passion and hunger for skills development which exists in this room tonight is extended across all sections of society. To gain a competitive advantage our people need to be smart, flexible and adaptable. At Scottish Enterprise, we're putting skills and learning at the very heart of our activities."

This year 55 high quality entries were received from Scotland involving some 64 plus organisations and individuals. The rigorous assessment and judging process resulted in the selection of 17 Scottish finalists of which 13 have been successful in securing an award. The entrant categories for this year's awards are: Employer, Partnerships and Individuals.