Deputy Minister in focus during VQ Day visit to Sony UK Technology Centre
Wales’ Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology, Julie James, was very much in focus as she began Vocational Qualifications (VQ) Day with a morning visit to global technology giant Sony UK Technology Centre (UKTEC) in Pencoed, Bridgend, where professional and broadcast cameras are made.
During her tour of the multi-award winning 30,000 square metre plant, which was opened by the Queen in 1993, she met staff who are taking vocational qualifications and, as it was VQ Day, she accepted an invitation to help assemble part of a camera.
She visited Sony UKTEC to hear how the company’s support for the training and development of its skilled workforce has created a reputation for manufacturing excellence. In addition to running its own training academy, the company currently has 12 graduates, five apprentices and 27 employees who are taking vocational qualifications in subjects such as engineering and business management.
VQ Day is a UK-wide celebration of vocational qualifications for apprentices, students, teachers, training providers and employers. Last night (Tuesday), as part of the VQ Day celebrations, the Deputy Minister presented VQ Awards for Wales to the Employer and Learner of the Year in a ceremony held at St David’s Hotel, Cardiff.
Sony, which has been in Wales since 1973, employs 350 staff at UKTEC and another 250 people are part of the company’s unique Business Incubation Centre, which now houses 31 related start-ups who are able to access specialist support services.
Crowned Britain’s Best Factory in 2013, Sony UKTEC has also received four Queen’s Awards for Export, a Queen’s Award for the Environment and is a previous British Quality Award winner.
The Pencoed plant’s core business function is the manufacture of high-quality, high-value, high-definition (HD) broadcast and professional camera systems and camera systems, which are produced for world-wide markets. The site is Sony’s only full camera manufacturer in Europe and is now one of three manufacturing facilities world-wide.
Employees require skill, knowledge and understanding of the latest manufacturing processes to ensure these highly complex and intricate products are made with precision, accuracy and are of the highest quality.
Other areas of the business include Sony’s main UK and European Customer Service Centre and its Business Incubation Centre. The site also offers third party contract manufacturing where products such as the Raspberry Pi, a mini credit card sized computer, are made.
The Deputy Minister was welcomed by Gerald Kelly, Sony UKTEC’s general manager and Nabila Elias, project manager and went on to meet Jane Cumming and Sian Thomas, who are taking a vocational qualification.
“Sony’s reputation for manufacturing excellence is underpinned by the company’s commitment to training and developing its highly skilled workforce,” said the Deputy Minister. “I was delighted, on VQ Day, to hear about the company’s graduate and apprenticeships programmes and its passion for enhancing employee skills.
“If the Welsh economy is to continue to grow then we must ensure that employers like Sony, individuals and the Welsh Government work together to invest in the right skills for success in order to equip Wales with a world class workforce.
“VQ Day reminds us just how many Welsh employers and learners are already going that extra mile when it comes to developing their skills. Vocational qualifications are the gold standard in professional excellence and we must ensure they are recognised alongside academic achievements.”
Mr Kelly said: “We welcome the Minister to our site during Vocational Qualification Day. We are passionate about enhancing our employees’ skills and it’s important that we provide them with the opportunities for development.
“Courses such as vocational qualifications can provide talented and motivated individuals with the opportunity to pursue careers in engineering, manufacturing and business management. Additionally, they are a great way to develop and acquire new skills, business knowledge and hands on training.
“Last year we successfully launched our graduate and apprenticeships programmes to develop the next generation of Sony engineers, innovators and business leaders. During this time we have witnessed our employees grow in self-confidence and demonstrate leadership skills which will help shape the future of manufacturing in Wales.”