Extract from the “Accrington Observer”
A Baxenden man has been awarded an MBE in the New Year Honours list for a career spent helping thousands of trainees and apprentices. Jim Harkness, of Back Lane, is the Managing Director of North Lancs Training Group.
He was given the honour for more than 40 years of services to business and to vocational training. Mr Harkness joined North Lancs Training Group (NLTG) in 1971 as the sole member of staff.
Since 1993, 25,000 apprentices and Train to Gain learners have benefited from North Lancs Training Group programmes.
He said: “I’m very happy, it’s a nice thing to happen. When you look around and realise that people have set it in motion, it’s a confirmation that you must be doing something right.
“I got a letter in November to say that I’d been nominated and asking me if I’d accept it. It took me about three seconds to decide. I was over the moon.”
Jim started work as an apprentice at De Havilland at 15 and moved on to work as a draughtsman and a guided missiles project engineer. Between the ages of 17 and 31 he coupled his work with a career as a professional footballer at Bury, Wigan Athletic, Ashton United and Lancaster City and as player-manager of Darwen.
Having seen his footballing career come to an end after breaking his leg in Chorley, Jim spent two years with the Blackburn Training Group before joining the NLTG aged 31.
Jim, aged 71, said: “The NLTG has grown from a one-man band to 240 staff over 12 different sites. It started in Accrington, I had a 14-foot square office on Paradise Street, but it wasn’t much like paradise. “Then I moved to premises above Marks and Spencer and from there we’ve moved on and on and on. It’s been a nice journey and I’ve enjoyed it. It’s my hobby now as well as my job. We look after a lot of member companies and do health and safety, personnel and training for them.
We have about 3,000 people on NVQ courses and probably 80 or 90 training officers, as well as experts in computer skills, customer services and 20 full- time teachers working for us.”
The NLTG has its headquarters at Bradshawgate House on Oak Street in Accrington as well as offices in Preston, Oldham, Fleetwood and Blackpool.
Jim said: “We have a fantastic team of people. They have dedication to their job and believe in what they’re doing. It’s a delight to be involved in the development of people’s careers.”
Jim has even been able to help his own children; daughter Laura, 34, works as a training officer with the NLTG and son Martin, 32, took one of the training courses on the way to becoming a joiner.
Jim said: “That’s the ultimate test really, making sure that what you do is good enough for your own children.
I’d like to thank the team at NLTG, they’re absolutely fantastic. The benefit that the company get by being a team is immeasurable.”
Jim was also vice-chairman of the board of governors at Hollins Technology College and was nominated for the Observer’s Freedom of the Borough award last year.