TWO top-level business gatherings will this week look to boost manufacturing and also get Bradford firms to provide more work opportunities for youngsters with learning difficulties.

Lathe-maker 600 Group is hosting the launch of manufacturing body EEF’s 2015 Manufacturing Growth Forum at its Heckmondwike base on Thursday. It aims to raise awareness of supply chain opportunities and enable more local businesses to tender for new opportunities.

Meanwhile, Bradford Teaching Hospitals chairman Lord Patel is looking to get local businesses to support Project SEARCH, now in its second year, which helps young people with learning difficulties into employment.

Business leaders will attend a breakfast meeting hosted by Lord Patel on Friday to launch a business advisory committee for the scheme.

Last year it provided 13 young people with 900 hours each of hospital-based work experience, doing jobs such as serving in the canteen, cleaning and packaging patients’ meals. Nine interns are taking part in the programme this year.

Lorraine Cameron, head of equality and diversity at the Bradford Hospitals Trust – the first hospital-based organisation in the North to join Project SEARCH – said: “We want local businesses to provide expertise and advice on local skill gaps. We want to find out what entry-level, high-turnover jobs are available in Bradford, along with workforce development and the skills needed locally to ensure our interns are in the very best position to increase their employment chances.”

The employment rate for people with learning difficulties is 7.7 per cent, but Project SEARCH has a 70 per cent employment rate.

Organisations attending include Morrisons, Midland Hotel, Seafresh, Tiffin Sandwiches, Puddle Digital, Premier Inn, the University of Bradford, Southfield Grange Trust, Barclays Bank, Bradford District Care Trust, Bradford Council, and E3 Bradford and Leeds City College (Keighley Campus).

Ms Cameron added: “We very much hope the launch of our business advisory committee will raise awareness of the many benefits of employing young people with learning difficulties.”