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Closing date looming for Manufacturing Excellence Academy


Pictured alongsidethe Chair of The Gallaher Trust Ian Paisley MP is: Graham Whitehurst, Chair of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s Manufacturing Task Force; Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s Deputy Mayor Councillor Matthew Armstrong;Nicola Olphert, Student Support, Northern Regional College; Wilbert Moore, Managing Director, Moore Concrete; Lorraine Farrell, Growth Development and Marketing Manager, GES Group; and Neil Collins, Managing Director Wrightbus.


Applications are currently invited for Ballymena’s first ever Manufacturing Excellence Academy.

With just 20 places for people living in the wider Ballymena community and with the 01 October closing date looming, there is no time to waste.

Northern Regional College is to play a key role in the Academy, which has been established with funding from The Gallaher Trust and assistance and support from Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s Manufacturing Task Force.


Successful applicants will secure a place on an intensive five-week training programme at the College in Ballymena. The programme has been specifically designed to help boost their employability in the local manufacturing sector.

Outlining the programme content, Alan Reid, Principal Lecturer with responsibility for industry engagement, explained that participants would be taught by industry experts:


“Students will be introduced to a range of generic manufacturing processes, standard operating and assembly procedures that are applicable across the sector.

“As part of the programme, participants will develop their knowledge in a range of areas including health and safety regulations, inspection and quality assurance principles, working to set specifications, correct use of tools and machinery, fundamentals of computer-controlled equipment and lean and continuous improvement techniques.”

He continued: “The programme will include guest speakers and industrial visits, but the main source of learning will be a work-based project so participants can put their new skills and knowledge into practice. There will also be a focus on generic skills such as communication, team working, interview skills and CV building to help successful participants secure employment.”


Participants will be paid a weekly training allowance of £150 and a daily travel allowance for the duration of the programme. For more information or to apply, visit Northern Regional College’s website: www.nrc.ac.uk.

Ballymena’s manufacturing sector has faced many challenges in recent years and, with the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, this sector has seen a much-reduced workforce pool. As restrictions begin to ease, there is a greater demand in the sector for fully trained employees. It is hoped that the Manufacturing Excellence Academy will go a long way towards bolstering the industry and encouraging individuals, regardless of their age, to consider a career in the sector.

When The Gallaher Trust committed almost £60,000 for the first year of the Manufacturing Academy initiative, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s Manufacturing Task Force approached local manufacturing companies to identify their skills gap.

“The Gallaher Trust approached the Mid and East Antrim Manufacturing Task Force several months ago. We saw how well the Northern Ireland Hospitality School of Excellence had worked and we wanted to replicate this in the manufacturing sector,” explained Ian Paisley MP, Chair of The Gallaher Trust.

“The Task Force and Graham Whitehurst were our first port of call; so, we are now extremely delighted to see the Manufacturing Excellence Academy launch with the assistance of The Gallaher Trust and that of local manufacturing companies.

“The Trust will provide almost £60,000 enabling 20 individuals to attend the College programme where upon completion, they will be guaranteed interviews with local manufacturing companies and the potential of employment.

“It is important to us that we deliver to the wider Ballymena community the opportunity to develop skills and obtain jobs. This programme will do just that and, if successful, it will run for a further two years.”

Graham Whitehurst MBE, Chair of the Task Force, said that despite the very challenging environment that the manufacturing companies have been operating in, there is a need and a local demand for a skilled manufacturing workforce.

He continued: “We have been working proactively with local employers to identify skills gaps and as a result, in partnership with the College, developed this manufacturing training programme in line with industry requirements.


“The Manufacturing Excellence Academy is a ‘win-win’ for everyone: employers have access to a growing pool of skilled ‘work ready’ employees; participants are paid to improve their employability and career prospects; and, with the potential to train 60 employees over three years with the necessary skills and knowledge of manufacturing to secure employment in this important sector, it will help secure the future growth of manufacturing in Ballymena.”

The Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor William McCaughey said:


“The Manufacturing Task Force was formed to help the companies in the Borough to work collaboratively to address issues in the sector such as improving innovation and productivity and skills development and this initiative is testament to the level of collaboration between the public and private sector within the task force to ensure business needs are met. I wish to thank The Gallaher Trust for the funding they have provided to support this highly important training programme.”

Wilbert Moore, Managing Director, Moore Concrete Products Ltd., who is one of a number of local companies involved in the academy, said:


“As a company we are growing and recruiting staff and with demand for staff being high at present and the market highly competitive, an initiative like this which encourages applicants to join the sector and provides them with the requisite training and skills to work in a manufacturing environment is very welcome and we fully endorse it.”

If the programme runs for another two years, The Gallaher Trust will commit a total of £177,525 over three years.