MORE than 140 jobs could be heading to Blackburn after one of the largest engineering and fabrication companies in the UK announced plans for expansion.

WEC Group have submitted plans to Blackburn with Darwen Council for a new industrial manufacturing unit and academy facility on land south of Premier Way, Walker Road, Walker Park, at junction 5 of the M65 at Guide.

The company have been providing fabrication, laser cutting precision machining, water-jet cutting, powder coating and CCTV mounting solutions for over 35 years and the majority of their operations and workforce is based within the Blackburn with Darwen area.

The Advanced Engineering Academy will span 25,000sq ft and will allow the company to deliver more advanced welding, machining and engineering courses using state-of-the-art equipment and practical training.

A supporting statement, prepared by Preston-based agents Smith and Love Planning Consultants, said if successful it would see the movement of 24 members of staff from their current training facility in Darwen and also 144 new additional staff will be employed in the industrial manufacturing building.

WEC currently trains 10 apprentices per year in Darwen but firm bosses say their programme is ‘over-subscribed’ and ‘several other northwest companies (associated with WEC Group) would like to send employees and apprentices to be trained by WEC on its one year course’.

The new purpose-built training facility would see them expand to 20 places for existing and new staff.

In the statement to planners, it says the ‘proposed development will meet the company’s operational expansion and training needs and will provide jobs, training and investment for the community.

“The application site is a suitable and highly-accessible location for industrial development and the ancillary company training facility.

WEC Group currently have a machining site on Walker Park and the new academy would be opposite it and the additional factory would enable future growth.

Cllr Phil Riley, who is the regeneration boss at Blackburn with Darwen Council said: “The WEC Group are a terrific asset to the borough.

“They have an impressive record with apprenticeships and obviously this is great news they are developing an approach to apprenticeships and also providing good quality jobs to the market in Blackburn.

“This would be a great opportunity for people locally if approved.”

The academy is part of a 10-year plan for the group as they want to tackle a skills gap and it will offer ‘world-class apprenticeships, practical training courses and industry certifications to individuals in the local area as a way of boosting employment and bringing growth and prosperity back to the area’s manufacturing industry’.

The WEC group has sites and offices in Lancashire, Merseyside, Yorkshire and the West Midlands and employs 800 staff within 15 subsidiary companies.