Football legend Sir Alex Ferguson met manufacturing apprentices at the University of Sheffield yesterday.
The Manchester United manager, an apprentice tool maker in Glasgow before turning professional as a footballer, met youngsters receiving training at the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) with Boeing and saw the site of the new multi-million pound AMRC Training Centre.
The centre aims to create knowledge and manufacturing breakthroughs by producing highly skilled workers to regenerate the region’s and the UK’s manufacturing industries.
Ferguson spoke to more than 200 staff and apprentices about his experiences, before signing items which will be buried in a time capsule.
"What we need is businesses to have confidence in young people”, said Sir Alex. "Manchester United is the best example of this. We believe in young people and it's amazing how they can surprise you.
"In 26 years our young players through our academy have made £115 million in sales, that's an investment. My apprenticeship was a fantastic part of my life. I always knew I had something specialist to go back to if football didn't go well.
"Apprenticeships give you a work force, a regeneration of people coming through. We need opportunities for apprenticeships to give young people chances to get success. I'm delighted to be here and I applaud that."
The AMRC Training Centre, which is due to be completed in Autumn 2013 and is part-funded by a £9.2 million Regional Growth Fund grant, will provide up to 250 students, aged 16 upwards, to be taken on paid apprenticeships with opportunities to progress on to postgraduate courses every year.
The centre will be based in a new 5,500 sq m building located on the Advanced Manufacturing Park in Catcliffe and will build on the technical expertise housed in the AMRC with Boeing and Nuclear AMRC.
It will provide tailored courses of practical and academic skills, from apprenticeship through to doctorate and MBA level, plus continuing professional development and will primarily serve businesses with operations in the region – including Rolls-Royce, which is building up to three new factories on the park.
Director of the AMRC, Professor Keith Ridgway, said: “It’s fantastic that Sir Alex could come and see the world leading work that’s taking place here at the Advanced Manufacturing Park. He is a big supporter of apprenticeships and ensuring these vital skills stay within the UK.”
Director of the AMRC Training Centre Alison Bettac added: “Manchester United has a long standing tradition of guiding youngsters through their youth ranks into the first team, and on to international honours, in the same way we hope to provide young people in the South Yorkshire region with the skills to compete at the highest level.
“The AMRC Training Centre will provide a step change in advanced manufacture and secure the future of the sector.”