Siemens’ general manager Simon Nadin warned that there was a “real skills deficit” in UK engineering, but he hoped that the establishment of the UTC Leeds, a new school for 14 to 19-year-olds, which focuses on advanced manufacturing, could nurture the rising stars of future.
Mr Nadin told The Yorkshire Post: “There’s a real shortfall of talented people in the engineering sector. If you speak to SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) they all struggle to find the right talent. I hope the UTC provides a vehicle for other organisations to identify talent.”
He said it was important to create links between education and engineering, and apprenticeships also played a key role.
Turnover at Siemens’ Leeds operations increased from £12.5m to £21m between 2010 and 2016, and the company believes the site could be approaching the £30m turnover mark in five years’ time.
The latest investment will support a new service cell for rail fleet gearbox overhauls. It will create up to 15 jobs over the next five years.
Mr Nadin said “We have a really committed team here at Leeds and their innovative ideas have helped us grow much faster.”
He said the team had found more efficient ways of working, and also had one of the strongest safety cultures within the Siemens business unit.
In the last two and a half years, Siemens has invested £2.5m in the Leeds factory and grown its workforce to 65 people. It employed around 58 people a year ago.
The site is recruiting service engineers to work on wind turbines and it also plans to take on three extra staff for the newly created rail service cell.
Initially, the site focused on assembling and servicing large mechanical drive units. It has since expanded to focus on areas such as rail coupling.
A new team was created for rail servicing in 2014, and a gearbox service cell has also been created to cash in on new opportunities.
A Siemens spokesman said: “Some rail industry long-term service contracts have been established; underpinning and securing the future for the Leeds workforce for decades to come.
“Most UK onshore wind turbines feature a mechanical gearbox. Around 50 per cent of these are Siemens’ gearboxes, all of which require periodic servicing.”
Engineers have also been trained by Siemens in Leeds to service the growing number of offshore wind turbines.
Other Leeds contracts for built units include export orders in sectors ranging from mining to renewables. Siemens Leeds also plans to work closely with more local suppliers over the next year; the unit already has long-term links with several suppliers in West Yorkshire.
The site supports many engineering apprentices, and technical seminars are held regularly at Stourton to help customers and partners find out about the latest innovations.
Andy Tüscher, the EEF regional director for Yorkshire and the Humber, said: “This is a great example of ongoing local commitment from a global manufacturer and is good news going forward for Leeds, Yorkshire and the UK.
“With the local UTC now established, home-grown engineering talent can be more easily sourced for the future.“
The site moved to its current home of Stourton, near Leeds, from Bradford, in 2010.