JCB IS TO SPEND nearly £2 million building an Academy School specialising in engineering, manufacturing and international business for 14 to 19-yearolds.
The announcement follows approval for a feasibility study for the school from education secretary Ruth Kelly.
If the study finds in favour of the scheme, the JCB Academy will have up to 540 pupils and will be built alongside the manufacturer's headquarters at Rocester to allow interaction between the school and JCB engineers.
Construction should start in 2008 in time for the academy to take its first pupils in September 2009.
Academy Schools are independent all-ability schools created in 'deprived areas' with 10 per cent of initial funding provided by the private sector and the rest by Government. The Government wants 200 academies established by 2010.
JCB chairman Sir Anthony Bamford said the move is designed to raise the profile and appeal of manufacturing among young people while providing a positive impact on the region, which has suffered from a decline in traditional industries.
The firm is to offer free transport for 'more than half' the intake of pupils from around Stoke-on-Trent and Derby. There will also be scholarships for weekly boarders.
The move comes at a time of heated debate over the plant manufacturing industry and its competitiveness globally, with four suppliers having to call in the administrators in the past two months.
Last week Construction Equipment Association president Paul Ross called for a meeting with the Prime Minister to voice his concerns about Government support for the sector Sir Anthony said: 'I am passionate about the importance of manufacturing to Britain and the JCB Academy shows this.' The academy is being developed with Burton College and Thomas Alleyne's High School, Uttoxeter, with which the manufacturer has strategic links.
The school will aim to raise standards in manufacturing by providing a balance of academic and vocational skills.
Gill Howland, executive director of Staffordshire Learning and Skills Council, said: 'The current skills shortage is something we need to tackle and having one of the largest global manufacturers on board can only help.' n JCB has said it has not suffered any impact on production following the collapse into administration of one of its specialist component suppliers earlier this month.
Rowley Regis-based engineered bolts specialist Thomas William Lench called in administrator Begbies Traynor on February 2, blaming high steel prices and a costly relocation of a factory.