AN innovation centre for entrepreneurs and social enterprises in Portsmouth has been described as inspirational by a business minister.
Nick Boles, minister of state for skills and equalities, visited the Cathedral Innovation Centre in Old Portsmouth yesterday.
Meeting apprentices, start-up owners and staff from the innovation centre, Mr Boles said he was most impressed by what he had seen.
He said: ‘The Cathedral Innovation Centre has an amazing range of people working under this roof with the guidance they are being given.
‘Some of them have also taken on apprentices, which is great, having them benefiting from apprenticeships and giving opportunities to young people. They are getting exactly the sort of opportunities you want to see.
‘I don’t think I’ve seen anything like it before. I am a member of Parliament and I was in another department before, but I have not seen a hub like this.
‘It’s wonderful to see very different ventures working together, feeding off each other, clearly friends, talking to each other. Everyone is helping each other out. It is very inspiring. I think when David Cameron talked about the ‘big society’, this is what he meant, but he didn’t know it at the time. I certainly think what is very encouraging is to see very small organisations and very new organisations seeing apprentices as the way for them to get an extra pair of hands but also to help the young person to get a qualification and a start in life.
‘I think traditionally, perhaps, it has been the big companies doing apprenticeships. We need to have more if we are going to have fewer people leaving school and not being able to get into work.
‘I think what is demonstrated here is we are seeing small organisations saying ‘yep, we will take one on’.’
Francis Davis, honourary chief executive officer, said Mr Boles had been ‘very interested’ in their work.
‘He really engaged with everyone and he struck me as being really interested in cutting red tape around taking on apprentices,’ he said.
Rebecca Saunders, executive and project manager for St Thomas’s Street centre, added: ‘We try to open up opportunities for people, especially with the redundancies because of the BAE closure. We are delighted that Nick could come and visit.’
Before the visit, Mr Boles met apprentices at Portsmouth College.