Celebrating our Apprentices at the County’s First Graduation Ceremony

I am sure you will agree that making sure that young people get the right training to get quality jobs should be a key part of plans to grow our economy and as I have spoken about before, apprenticeships are vital to this.  On Wednesday over 150 apprentices from across Staffordshire were honoured at the county’s first ever Apprentice Graduation Ceremony.  The apprentices with their families all joined local employers and training providers at the County Showground to celebrate their achievements.  It was a great event and good to see such a range of companies represented, including, JCB, KMF, the Fire Service, Entrust, the County Council and many more employers, large and small.  I am sure you will join with me in congratulating the young people who should all be very proud of their achievements.

We are continuing to make great progress in increasing the number of apprenticeships available to young people, in particular higher level qualifications.  Last year over 11,000 people started an apprenticeship in Staffordshire; nearly double that of five years ago.  The number of new apprenticeships in high-tech engineering is also on the up which is good news as many of the future jobs will be in this sector.

Sticking with skills, we also heard the encouraging news that our three pioneering skills hubs to improve people’s opportunities in the advanced manufacturing and engineering sector have made an impact on hundreds of Staffordshire people in its first year.

Training programmes have been operating in Tamworth, Newcastle and Stoke since October last year, providing courses employers say will give them the workforce they need while improving people’s career prospects.  There are growing employment opportunities in our key sectors in Staffordshire and it is important our workforce can make the most of them.  Over the next few months we’ll be announcing the next phase of the hub with additional spokes around the county.

Work is well underway at Liberty Park, in Lichfield – a £38 million development of industrial and warehouse accommodation which could create up to 1,100 jobs.  Alongside the work, it was also good to see the students from nearby Nether Stowe School visit the site to see first-hand what’s involved in an engineering project of this size. As at i54 South Staffordshire, the development is giving us the ideal opportunity to provide young people a taste of how rewarding a career in engineering can be.  Site development involves an eye for design, creativity, detail and mathematics and it was good to get this across to the young people themselves.

The county’s sports fans also got a special treat last Wednesday, getting to see Rugby’s greatest prize, the Webb Ellis Cup, as part of the Rugby World Cup Trophy Tour.  The tournament starts in September, but people got a glimpse of the famous cup at Trentham Gardens and later on at Blessed William Howard School in Stafford.

Having this iconic trophy in the county I hope will inspire many of our sports people to pursue their sporting ambitions and build on our work to make Staffordshire a great county for sports events.

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