Minister sees how apprentices work

VISIT Business secretary Vince Cable with Commodore Mark Slawson
VISIT Business secretary Vince Cable with Commodore Mark Slawson

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THIS week is national apprenticeship week, and to mark the event Business Secretary Vince Cable visited HMS Sultan to find out about the work going on there.

HMS Sultan, in Gosport, is home to Babcock engineering academy.

There EDF apprentices get the chance to work for two years in a mock nuclear power plant, which was officially opened last week.

And apprentices with Network Rail get the opportunity to work on full-size railway lines in order to learn their skills in a safe environment. The course is so popular that there are 8,000 applicants for only 200 places.

Guy Wilmshurst -Smith, head of competence and training for Network Rail, said: ‘It shows the sheer scale of demand for apprenticeship training.

‘There is anxiety about how we’ll fund all the apprentices. We get funding for one year, when our courses are three years.

‘In terms of investing in facilities and new equipment, it’s difficult to make that investment.’

Mr Cable spent 90 minutes touring the Sultan site, and spoke to apprentices and business leaders who offer apprenticeships.

He said more businesses should be offering training places to youngsters for whom university may not be an option.

He added: ‘It’s all about training, getting the next generation properly trained, giving them real value.’

The Government has pledged to finance 75,000 new apprenticeship places.

To find out more go to the website apprenticeships.org.uk.