Last week was an extremely busy one for me in Westminster as it was National Apprenticeship week.
I began the week with a visit to the BBC over at their broadcasting centre near Oxford Circus. We had a networking event with the BBC Academy apprentices in the morning followed by a talk by Lord Tony Hall, director of the BBC about the importance of hiring apprentices. I gave him my booklet about my journey as Apprenticeship Ambassador and lobbied him about making a TV programme called ‘The Real Apprentice’. He was intrigued and happy to discuss it further so I am looking forward to getting the ball rolling at last.
In the evening I met with David Laws, the Head of Wellfield School and their chairman of Governors regarding the roll out of free school meals for all children. This is problematic for Wellfield as they currently do not have a kitchen. The meeting was set up to find out how the Government is proposing funding for this. It was a very positive meeting and we shall hopefully have a decision in the coming months. Later that evening I also spoke at an event to ‘Cut the VAT Campaign Coalition’ for the launch of some new research on why Government should reduce VAT on housing renovation and repair work.
On Tuesday I had Adam Banks, a third year apprentice at EON UK shadowing me. We started the day with a discussion on the future of the aerospace industry with representatives from this sector. It provided insight into the crucial importance of aerospace programmes to UK manufacturing. I then met a man called Ajit who is running a “Ghost Station Project” with the disused underground stations in London. He is interested in taking on an apprentice and would like some advice. In the afternoon I attended a special apprenticeship reception with Skills Minister Matthew Hancock which outlined the importance of apprenticeships in shaping the local and national economy and how the Government’s commitment to apprenticeships and traineeships is part of our wider growth strategy. In the evening I gave my support to Sport Relief 2014 by participating in their parliamentary pedal reception. I certainly worked up a sweat but all good fun in aid of such an important cause. This helped work up an appetite for an Industry Parliament Trust dinner on building apprenticeships for young people.
On Wednesday we had the PMQs followed by a statement from Matthew Hancock on apprenticeships. It was great how much publicity this issue got in the House – it has definitely become a popular topic over the past year. I also met with some very talented UK Music apprentices in Parliament.
The rest of the week was busy with apprenticeship-related meetings and events; namely a reception with Nick Clegg for female apprentices where I took along wonderful apprentice, Georgia Callan, from British Airways to address the under-representation of women in STEM careers. Finally I ended the week by attending the BIS questions in the chamber and then headed off to 10 Downing St, where George Osborne addressed a room full of fabulous young people pursuing great careers with their companies.
It was then back to Burnley where I had an excellent meeting with Burnley Football Club’s head of community. I was pleased to learn about their plans to bring the town together through a new business venture and community involvement schemes. I was impressed by their strong view that football is at the heart of a community. From there I dropped into Burnley College where I met lots of Year 9 students who were attending the annual Work Inspiration day. Many of the town’s local companies were exhibiting their businesses and I feel it was a great success. I spoke to a lot of young people and they were all very excited by the job possibilities for their future. This was then followed by another busy afternoon with constituent appointments.
On Saturday it was the Liberal Democrat Spring conference held in York which was a lovely and convenient place for it to be held. I attended a very inspiring event about manufacturing with Vince and we discussed some vital issues to be addressed.