Last week was National Apprenticeships Week. The annual event celebrates and promotes the fantastic benefits which apprenticeships offer both learners and employers, spotlighting businesses who are investing in this life-changing education route.
I marked the week, in my role as Secretary of State for Transport, with a visit to Heathrow Airport. After taking a ride there on the Elizabeth Line, a government back infrastructure project which was itself supported by over 1000 apprentices, I met with apprentices from British Airways and Virgin Atlantic to hear about the vital skills they’ve been learning.
However, you don’t have to go all the way to Heathrow to find apprenticeship opportunities in the aviation industry - Gloucestershire has one of the largest and most significant aerospace clusters in the world with Messier Dowty, GE Aviation and Darchem Insulation Systems as key players in the area.
You can also undertake apprenticeships in a range of other industries here in the Forest of Dean. I was pleased to help secure just under £2 million from the Government’s Getting Building Fund for the AccXel Centre in Cinderford. Backed by local building firm K W Bell, AccXel was officially registered as an apprenticeship training provider last Summer and offers unique programmes designed to ensure that apprentices receive the best theoretical and practical construction education available anywhere in the country.
Too many young people, and older career changers, don’t know about the fantastic, skill-building opportunities apprenticeships can offer so I am pleased to see awareness of them being raised locally. For example, this week Dene Magna is holding its post-18 career fair at their Cinderford sixth form campus and top apprenticeship providers will be there, showcasing what they have to offer to school leavers.
UCAS data shows that an above average number of people in the Forest of Dean expressed an interest in apprenticeships this year, but we can still go further. Under new plans announced this Apprenticeships Week, young people will be able to use the UCAS portal to search and apply for apprenticeships, alongside degrees – this will help put technical and vocational education on an equal footing with traditional academic routes.
This article was first published in The Forester newspaper.