This week would normally be a week where I would be able to visit and meet apprentices in the Wells Constituency but, of course, Covid-19 has put a stop to that. National Apprenticeship Week is an opportunity to showcase apprentices and the impact they can have on local economies and opportunities for young people.
I have always been an advocate for apprenticeships – particularly down here in Somerset. They are mutually beneficial for employers, colleges and young people. We are very lucky to have some excellent providers, as well as several colleges serving the community.
Strode College, in Street, has been leading the way with both Apprenticeship opportunities alongside working hard to introduce new T-Level qualifications to increase the prospects and provide a wide range of choice for those unsure of what to do after finishing school. The college has also been awarded more than £1million for a new digital and technology centre and the Government has also ensured they will have additional funds for a new hospital ward and science lab. Last year, I was so pleased to welcome Apprenticeships and Skills Minister, Gillian Keegan MP, to Strode and she was extremely impressed with all the work they are doing, and they very much deserve the Government’s support.
We are also served extremely well by Bridgwater and Weston Colleges and having visited all of them, I am continually impressed with how much support they provide in one of the most challenging times for our young people.
The support of colleges and employers has become even more important as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic and I am under no illusion about how tough this has been for students, but both students and teaching staff have adapted admirably. I look forward to seeing more and more Somerset success stories as a result of this important week.