Aerospace firm Testia aims to train 1,400 in Newport
The next generation of expert aerospace engineers are to be trained in south Wales after a global company launched a new UK business.
EADS, which owns Airbus in Flintshire, hopes to recruit school leavers to join Testia, which will be based in Newport.
The company has already invested £1.4m in the new venture and says it hopes to be training 1,400 students a year within six years.
It plans to meet the training needs of the aerospace industry worldwide.
Testia said it chose Newport because of its good road and rail links and because there were so many aerospace companies in and around Wales.
What is important for Wales is that this investment is recognition that the country has a significant aerospace industry.
There are 20,000 people working across aerospace manufacturing, maintenance, repair and overhaul as well as support services.
Together they are worth around £1.2bn.
This investment also helps to consolidate and strengthen that for the future.
Testia said it chose Newport because of its good communications by road, rail and plane and because there are so many aerospace companies in and around Wales.
Those types of companies need continual training.
It also expects to train engineers from hundreds of suppliers and customers including GE at Nantgarw, Rolls Royce, global engineering group GKN, Airbus and the space company Astrium.
Regulations dictate that big aerospace companies have to send their staff to outside organisations for training in how to inspect equipment and machinery.
Testia chief executive Brian Hall said that made the new Newport company in effect a training school for the whole sector.
"We will bring people in at two levels," he said.
"We will bring people in as school leavers and people who wish to embark on a career.
"But also we will bring people in from universities. Those will be the engineers of the future who will be looking at the materials we will be using.
"People will come in and go through an approved apprenticeship. They will come out with a qualification that's recognised not just by us but by the industry in general."
Testia Ltd already has sites in mainland Europe but this is the first in the UK.
EADS also owns the security firm Cassidian in Newport.
David Blackaby, professor of business and economics at Swansea University, told BBC Radio Wales: "You've got 20,000 people employed in that sector in Wales - a large supply chain - and that's why this company has decided to put a training facility in Wales.
"We know we have a problem of young people not in employment, education and training so this is going to take people from school and it's also going to take people from university.
"We know there's a direct correlation between skills, productivity, employment and growth - and so our own prosperity - and this sort of development is likely to raise the productivity of existing firms and is likely to attract new firms to the area."
Laurie Price, an aviation consultant with engineering and development consultancy Mott MacDonald, said the air transport industry was growing rapidly.
"Boeing came out at the weekend with the pronouncement that they are going to need something like half-a-million new engineers over the next 20 years to support all the new aircraft that both Boeing and Airbus are building, and others," he said.
"That could actually be a tripling over the next 30 years. You've got to have the engineers and the pilots to go with that so this initiative that's been taken in Wales is very, very timely to meet that."
He said a centre of excellence had been built in Wales and its reputation was good.