HRH The Prince of Wales was at Gateshead College today as part of a visit to Nissan’s Sunderland plant to see production of the 100% electric Nissan LEAF and to learn about the Nissan Skills Foundation, a job-creation programme.
His Royal Highness has a relationship with the Nissan plant that dates back almost 30 years.
During a trip to Japan in 1986, the Prince of Wales took part in a traditional Japanese Daruma ceremony to mark the start of production at the newly constructed Sunderland plant and rode in one of Nissan’s ground-breaking electric vehicles at the company’s Zama plant.
During today’s visit, The Prince of Wales was shown how a further 29 years of electric vehicle technology have helped make Nissan’s electric LEAF the best-selling electric car in history. He also met apprentices and employees involved in the project.
The LEAF, which went into production at the plant in 2013, was the world’s first mass produced 100% electric vehicles and with sales of 33,000 vehicles in Europe and over 158,000 vehicles globally.
Paul Willcox, Chairman, Nissan Europe who hosted The Prince said: “We were honoured to receive a visit from The Prince of Wales
“With a keen, lifelong interest in sustainability, His Royal Highness was interested to see LEAF production as well as hear about Sunderland’s achievements as one of the UK’s most successful car plants.”
Following the tour of the production line, the Prince of Wales visited Nissan’s Global Training Centre, which is part of Gateshead College’s Skills Academy for Sustainability, Manufacturing and Innovation. Nissan Vice President Manufacturing Kevin Fitzpatrick introduced him to some of the schools engagement activities which form the Nissan Skills Foundation.
Fitzpatrick said: “Nissan launched the Skills Foundation last year with the aim of using everything from electric vehicles to Formula One to encourage young people to take up careers in manufacturing and engineering.
“As one of the region’s largest employers it’s important that Nissan take a lead role. I was delighted for the opportunity to show The Prince of Wales just some of the activities that we offer the region’s schools.”
The Prince met with pupils from Gillas Lane Primary School in Sunderland, St Cuthbert's in Newcastle and the Venerable Bede, Sunderland who were taking part in Nissan Skills Foundation activities which include the Industrial Cadets program.
Inspired by His Royal Highness back in 2010, the Industrial Cadets program helps to raise the awareness of the job opportunities that exist in the manufacturing sector. So far over 100 local secondary school children have already completed the course at Nissan with another 100 due to take part during this academic year.
Judith Doyle, Principal and Chief Executive at Gateshead College said: “It is an honour to welcome The Prince of Wales and to be able to demonstrate the great work that Nissan is doing working alongside education to help shape the next generation of engineers.
“It is crucial to the success of the UK economy that industry and education collaborate to meet skills needs and to prepare our young people for the careers of the future.
“Gateshead College’s position as Nissan’s trusted training partner spans more than a decade, which is a testament to our continued commitment as an FE college to be responsive to the needs of today’s ever-changing developments, not just in engineering, but across all sectors.”