Importance of apprenticeships highlighted during MP’s visit to acclaimed Norfolk college

MP Henry Bellingham with a young apprentice at the National Construction College in Bircham Newton

MP Henry Bellingham with a young apprentice at the National Construction College in Bircham Newton - Credit: Photoshot

The crucial role the government believes apprenticeships will have in revitalising the economy and jobs market was emphasised yesterday during an MP's visit to Norfolk's internationally-acclaimed construction skills college.

Henry Bellingham, MP for North West Norfolk, visited the National Construction College at Bircham Newton, near Fakenham, ahead of next week's National Apprenticeship Week.

Mr Bellingham toured the facilities, met young apprentices on the first week of their courses and had a go at using a JCB digger.

He said: 'It was heartening to see these young people showing great enthusiasm and ability, despite only just starting their courses, and they had a great sense of optimism about their futures.

'This college is a centre of excellence and a world leader in its field.'

The EDP has previously reported how Norfolk County Council launched Apprenticeships Norfolk in September last year.

It has put £3,5m into the scheme which will see up to 400 apprenticeships launched at Norfolk's small and medium-sized businesses over the next two years.

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The money, which is in addition to the £1.1m used to create 100 apprenticeships at the county council-owned Norse, will help subsidise wages and is aimed at small and medium-sized businesses who have not previously taken on apprentices.

There is a particular focus on growing sectors of engineering, energy, advanced manufacturing, hospitality and tourism, creative industries, health and social care, agriculture, food and drink.

Mr Bellingham said: 'Even in these times of recession and austerity the government is continuing to invest in apprenticeships in lots of different sectors, which is really good news.'

Andy Walder, director of the National Construction College, said research showed the Bircham Newton college to be the biggest training centre of its type in Europe.

He said, despite challenging times for the construction industry as a whole, the college was 10pc up on apprentices training at Bircham Newton compared to last year.

He said there are some 450 apprentices training at the college this year.

Mr Walder said: 'We are seeing more and more small and medium-sized businesses appreciating the value of apprenticeships.

'They see how apprentices get trained in the right way and work together and learn off each other and bring new skills and ideas back to their work places.

'Apprentices are also very loyal to the companies they work for.'

Mr Walder said he sees potential for a bright future for the construction industry in East Anglia.

He said: 'There is the new distribution centre in Peterborough, the dualling of the A11, plans for 11,000 new homes just outside Cambridge and lots of other smaller projects.

'And if Sizewell C goes ahead that would be massive boost the this region's construction industry.

'There are lots of reasons to be optimistic.'