Freedom of City ceremony for Nissan's Sunderland plant this evening

Nissan's workforce will be awarded the Freedom of Sunderland this evening
Nissan's workforce will be awarded the Freedom of Sunderland this evening
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Thousands of Nissan staff will be granted the Freedom of the city of Sunderland this evening.

The firm’s 7,000 workers will be represented by 65 members of staff who will attend the ceremony at Sunderland Civic Centre on their behalf.

The production line at Nissan

The production line at Nissan

The accolade, first proposed by Sunderland City Council Leader Paul Watson and approved at a full council meeting with cross-party support,recognises the role of Nissan’s skilled and flexible workforce in establishing the largest ever and most successful plants in the history of UK car production.

Coun Watson said: "Nissan’s phenomenal success in Sunderland would not have been possible without the highly skilled and hard-working people it employs here.

"The plant’s workforce has been instrumental in building the city’s global reputation and in maintaining our proud track record of manufacturing and engineering quality products for the rest of the world."

Kevin Fitzpatrick, Nissan’s Divisional Vice President, European manufacturing, said: "I speak for the whole plant when I say how proud we are to receive this honour from Sunderland City Council. For three decades Nissan and the City of Sunderland have worked hand in hand, creating a leading global automotive centre.

"Central to that has been the ingenuity, quality and commitment of our workforce - so many of whom were born and bred close to our factory."

The Nissan factory supports 40,000 supply chain jobs and has produced almost nine million cars since it opened in 1986, with an impressive track record of attracting new models to Sunderland.

In 2015 the plant became home to INFINITI – the first new car brand to be manufactured in the UK for 23 years and saw cars made in Sunderland exported to the United States and China for the first time. The plant also produces the all electric Nissan LEAF, the first mass-produced electric car, and will also make the new X-Trail vehicle and the next Qashqai model.

Nissan has also committed to enhancing the knowledge, skills and capabilities of its workforce. In 2012 Nissan teamed up with Gateshead College to develop the UK’s first skills academy for ‘Sustainable Manufacturing & Innovation’ at the Sunderland plant. Its aim is to develop new skills for the fast-growing low carbon vehicle industry.

Since operations began, Nissan has trained more than 4,000 young people through its apprenticeship and graduate programmes with many going on to take leadership roles within Nissan, both here in Sunderland and across the world.

And to ensure future generations have the skills and enthusiasm they will need to maintain the region’s manufacturing legacy the Nissan Skills Foundation was set up. More than 21,000 school children have now taken part in activities to inspire and engage them in manufacturing, whether through science, technology, engineering or maths.

The nomination for the Nissan workforce Freedom of the City was put forward in November 2016. The notice said: 'This council congratulates wholeheartedly the Nissan workforce for their sterling efforts in securing the future production of the next generation Qashqai and X-Trail and feels that it is right and proper for the workforce of Nissan to receive the Freedom of the City.'