LOCAL jobs for local people will be the aim of the new bio jet fuel plant in the Thames Enterprise Park, councillors were told – but the population’s skills must improve first.

Andrew Owens, founder of Greenergy - which together with Vopak and Shell took over the Petroplus refinery in 2012 - made the comments at a meeting of the council’s ruling cabinet yesterday and argued more needed to be done to inspire young people to join industry as well as boost their skills.

He said: “One of the things we would like to do is integrate a little bit more with kids who are of a certain age and have a centre people can come and visit because industry is a mess.

“People don’t think it’s inspiring but that’s because they don’t come across it.

“Ships, for example, are the most epic thing ever and I decided I wanted to go into oil because of ships but, although we’ve got the third biggest port in Europe, people think we’re closed.

“Getting across to people that commercial activities are going on is very important.”

However, he added many local people interviewed by his company fell at the first hurdle, lacking interview skills even when they met the skills for the job.

He said: “When we interview people the hardest thing is getting through the first ten minutes.

“My assistant tells me that it’s because, while when we were young if you wanted to watch something and it was on at 7pm, you had to be there at 7pm or you couldn’t watch it.

"These days because everything’s on iPlayer, young people are used to getting things when they want them and, if the interview’s at 4.10pm, they don’t consider 4.10pm to be a particularly important time.

“They show up ten minutes late and it doesn’t occur to them to show up five minutes early.”