Wendy Gibson at NEPIC awards
Tom Keighley

An important year for Teesside's process industry, NEPIC chairman tells awards

Some of the North East’s best process industry performers were honoured at a major awards ceremony in County Durham at the weekend, hosted by former BBC Look North presenter Wendy Gibson.

Over 420 process industry executives attended the NEPIC Annual Awards evening at Sedgefield’s Hardwick Hall, where 13 awards were handed to the region’s brightest youngsters, best companies and key contributors to the industry.

Paul Booth, NEPIC Chairman and European director at SABIC UK Petrochemicals addressed the audience and reflected on the cluster’s position over the twelve months prior and the outlook for the future.

He said: “This is an important time for the process industry. The acceptance of the Industry Growth Strategy by Government should lead to an even more concerted effort to support and grow the industry into the future.

“We have a real opportunity over the next few years if we can take advantage of nearby energy sources like the Underground Coal Gasification opportunities in the Durham Coalfield and the Government’s commitment to support the Teesside Industrial Carbon Capture and Storage Initiative. As industrialists we must commend NEPIC for their Leadership on all these issue.”

Apprentice Awards – three in total this year - in the areas of manufacturing and supply chain, were awarded to SABIC’s Michael Atkinson, Daniel Thompson of Wilton-based Lotte Chemical UK and Matthew Gunn of Jacobs UK Ltd.

This year’s ‘Young Achievers’ prizes went to Jonathan Haigh of Billingham-based Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies; Dan Baker of Huntsman Pigments; Helen Taylor of Aesica Pharmaceuticals; Daniel Arkel of Chemoxy Internationald and Dave Thompson of Sembcorp Utilities UK.

Teesside-based SME, Returnable Packaging Solutions (RPS) claimed this year’s Industrial Environmental Award and Billingham-based acrylic manufacturers WRL Glass Media were recognised for their exporting prowess.

The firm has established distribution networks across France, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Czech Republic, Cyprus and Greece.

Ken Home OBE, the founder of Thornaby-based engineers K Home International, received the Outstanding Contribution Award for his services to the local process industry.

Upon hearing the news of his win, Ken said: “I was surprised, delighted and proud to be told I was receiving this award from my peers within the NEPIC family. As a company we have participated in NEPIC since its inception and benefited from its industry support activities.

“I would both encourage and challenge all the young stars receiving their awards today to utilise their skills and leadership capability to maintain our locality as a world leading location for the process industry into the future.”

The evening included an impassioned speech by Sembcorp’s George Ritchie, who encouraged the assembled companies to take on apprentices.

Mr Ritchie said: “I’m urging every company in the Process Industry, plus those in their vitally important supply chains, to take on at least one apprentice this year - particularly those that have never done so before.

“The Sembcorp Skills Development Programme is an innovative industry response to something that we ourselves requested in order to tackle the skills shortage. It embraces every aspect of Government thinking on ‘employer ownership of skills’ and is a great example of a scheme that is particularly tailored to SMEs - giving them all the help and support they need to sustain a skilled and talented workforce into the future.

“However, without employer support it simply does not work. With around 200,000 people in our supply chain alone, there is much, much more that employers - large and small in this region - can do.

“It is a crime that only 20% of employers nationally have an apprentice and as a region with the worst levels of youth unemployment and a desperate need to replenish our workforces, we must grasp the nettle and show that we care about our young people.”

To date the NEPIC Annual Dinner has awarded £150k in prize money that includes £54k to the sectors rising stars, £90k to support STEM projects within 45 local schools and £6,000 in support of new Exporters in the region.

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