MP WRITES: Building your career

ARE you a young person aged between 16 and 18 interested in securing an apprenticeship in the construction industry, particularly in terms of brickwork and joinery?

Are you a parent or grandparent of somebody aged 16, 17 or 18, who is worried about their future career prospects and hoping they could get a good trade? If so, I hope you carry on reading because there might be something in it for you.

I mentioned last week how engineering has a long and proud history in Hartlepool, with its prosperity built through engineering skills in the docks, railways, shipyards and steel mills.

The bedrock of such skills was the apprenticeship.

Learning a trade was the means by which skills were passed from one generation to the next.

They were an invaluable part of the social and economic fabric that made up our industry, but over the past 30 or 40 years they seemed to go out of fashion. That was the wrong approach for the future long-term health of our economy and the skills within it.

I don’t want to be too party political about this – it’s more important that Parliament focuses on the long-term and non-partisan approach to what is needed for our economy – but apprenticeships had more or less died during the Conservative Governments of the 1980s and 1990s.

Only about 65,000 apprenticeships were started in the last year of the Tory Government in 1996-97.

In the last year of the Labour Government, the year that I was proud to be Apprenticeships Minister, we had over 240,000 apprenticeship starts.

That progress has continued with the present Government, although there is concern about the quality of some apprenticeship courses and how many apprenticeship numbers are focused on over 25 year olds.

I am worried about the decline in apprenticeship starts for those young people aged under 19.

As I said in the House of Commons last week, where we had a debate on the issue of apprenticeships, we fail our young people if we do not give them a good first step on the career ladder.

That means ensuring they are getting access to apprenticeship opportunities when they are 17 or 18.

However, there has been a fall year-on-year for the number of apprenticeship starts for those under 19. Given that the unemployment rate for 16 and 17 year olds is 36.3 per cent, it is something that needs to be tackled locally and nationally.

The Modern Trades Academy contacted me recently. They are a training company based at Mainsforth Terrace.

They are running an apprenticeship brickwork and joinery courses for those young people aged between 16 and 18. Twenty-two young people are currently on their books, but they have been allocated funding for an additional 40 young people to be trained.

The company wants to engage as much as possible with young people to give them a start in a promising career in the construction industry, but is finding it difficult to engage.

I hope young people or their families who are interested in an apprenticeship get in touch.

I would recommend you contact Haydn Glass, Business Development Manager at 7-8 Newburn Bridge Industrial Estate at (01429) 224433 to register your interest.

I hope that this will lead to more young people securing a good career in construction.