On the ‘burning issue’ of inward investment for the region, David Land, Chairman of County Durham Engineering and Manufacturing Network (CDEMN), spoke to prestigious business and lifestyle magazine, North East Times.

He said: “The North East has a good reputation for attracting and retaining some very successful global companies, who are making a significant contribution to the region’s economy.

“In order to build on this, we need to strengthen our offering in several key areas.

“Firstly we must support existing SMEs so they can demonstrate and provide a strong technical and competitive solution that will meet the needs of the future supply chain.

“We also need to review and strengthen our skills base through the development of a seamless link between schools and employers so that confidence can be achieved to offer young people long-term careers in the engineering and manufacturing sectors. We know the jobs are there – the challenge is to ensure young people have the skills businesses are looking for.

“We also shouldn’t forget the importance of upskilling existing employees. Young people are the workforce of tomorrow – existing employees are the here and now.

“Improving our connectivity must also be a major priority – investment in our air and rail links are particularly important so we can provide easier and quicker movement both within the region and to major capitals and cities both around the UK and internationally.”