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Ambitious call made for region to create 1,000 paid apprenticeships

PUBLISHED: 14:40 17 July 2020 | UPDATED: 14:40 17 July 2020

Nigel Cushion of leadership mentors Nelsonspirit. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Nigel Cushion of leadership mentors Nelsonspirit. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

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An ambitious call has been made for the county’s businesses to rally together to create 1,000 new paid apprenticeships for those leaving the education system and looking for work.

Professor John Last, vice-chancellor of Norwich Universtity of the Arts/NUA. Picture: Antony KellyProfessor John Last, vice-chancellor of Norwich Universtity of the Arts/NUA. Picture: Antony Kelly

As a panel of business and community leaders debated the challenges the coronavirus pandemic has posed for the county in future, a major shared concern was an increased level of unemployment.

With many businesses facing financial difficulty as a result of the pandemic, coupled with the disruption to the education sector it has caused, fears were expressed that the immediate future could see demand for jobs vastly outweighing the availability of posts.

The discussion led Nigel Cushion, the founder and chairman of social enterprise Nelsonspirit, to call on the region’s businesses and organisations to create 1,000 new paid apprenticeships to provide vital gateways into work for Norfolk’s young people.

He said: “A positive narrative is absolutely key and we must not risk being tribal. I think we should create 1,000 paid apprenticeships.”

Labour group leader Steve Morphew. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYLabour group leader Steve Morphew. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Mr Cushion was on a panel of nine community leaders who came together for the latest webinar in a series being hosted by this newspaper, which examined Norfolk’s road to recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

It featured participants from the worlds of politics, education and business, including Norwich North MP Chloe Smith, Steve Morphew, leader of the Labour group at Norfolk County Council, and Chris Sargisson, chief executive of the Norfolk Chambers of Commerce.

Along with identifying a range of challenges the county faces, the panel was tasked with debating the opportunities that have also been created - such as the county learning to work in greener ways.

However, in light the collapse of Age UK Suffolk, concerns were also raised over the future of similar charity organisations.

Norwich North Conservative MP Chloe Smith.  Picture: Neil DidsburyNorwich North Conservative MP Chloe Smith. Picture: Neil Didsbury

Michael Gurney, a trustee of the Norfolk Community Foundation, said that the inability to go out and fundraise had hit charities hard throughout the pandemic.

He said: “Action is still needed to support this sector, although the strength of the community is increasing. If we can build on that it will make Norfolk a much better place for years to come.”

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Other key points

• Improving broadband still needs to be a priority

The need for the county’s broadband speeds to be improved was raised by more than one member of the panel, including John Last, vice chancellor of the Norwich University of the Arts.

Prof Last said: “We need to get broadband up to industry standard - and this is not just about the rural areas either.”

• Community groups will need support

Mr Morphew praised the work of community groups, who he said were “wonderful people coming together to do things”.

However, he added if they are to continue having an impact they need financial backing and proper support.

• Economic and health balance

Ms said she felt that health being the main priority was right to begin with, but that the big challenge going forward will be striking the balance between the health needs and the economic needs of the county.


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