A venerable Rochdale precision tool manufacturer is leading efforts to set up a new Institute for Advanced Machinery in the north west.

Tony Bannan, CEO of PTG Holroyd, told delegates at our Greater Manchester Development Conference that the company is preparing a bid to set up the institute with support from the Rochdale Development Agency.

Academics from the universities of Salford and Huddersfield are also involved in setting up the institute, which will support research and development and training in the advanced machinery sector, he said: “If we get it in the north west it will be of crucial value to our economy.”

The 158-year old company faces intense competition for staff, Bannan said: “There are few other firms like ours left so we can’t go fishing in somebody’s pool and have to develop our own or find people with transferable skills.

“One of the risks we have is that we have such good people that they become very attractive to recruiters, “ he said, adding that the company faces competition from other industries beyond advanced machinery.

Salaries have increased much faster than the national average, Bannan said, with new recruits typically commanding salaries 15 to 20% higher than those they replace.

Nic Hutchins, principal skills manager (apprenticeships) at Greater Manchester Combined Authority, told delegates that Brexit could potentially compound skills shortages given there are 2.1 million EU workers in the UK.

“This increases the importance of ensuring we are training and developing the skills needed to compete globally,” he said.

But this pressure on skills makes it more important to tap existing under-used pools of labour, he said: “Despite long periods of growth, we still have significant numbers of people unemployed and suffering from ill-health.”

Marion King, director of payments at NatWest, told the session that regional cities used to be where organisations had put back office functions into like HR and finance.

But now she said that Manchester, blessed by its good transport connections that include a host of motorway junctions, has become the bank’s main hub for digital development.