By Martin Walker
Newton Aycliffe MP Phil Wilson has thrown his weight behind an exciting new apprenticeship enrichment programme involving all the major companies in the town.
Firms including Tallents Engineering, Flymo Husqvarna, Finley Structures, Aycliffe Fabrications, Palram, EBAC and Stiller Transport are joining forces to launch an Apprenticeship Awareness Programme, working with Aycliffe’s two secondary schools.
It will involve companies giving a brief demonstration to Year 9 students at both Woodham Academy and Greenfield Community College during a series of workshop carousels, dubbed “speed networking”, to give young people a flavour of the work they do.
The youngsters will then be split into groups during site visits to six different companies, when they’ll get to learn more about their chosen industry, from manufacturing to IT and HR.
The programme, funded through the Great Aycliffe and Middridge Partnership (GAMP) and in partnership with the town’s two secondary schools, is designed to get school-leavers interested in apprenticeships.
The project is being led by Woodham Academy with input from EDT, the largest provider of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics enrichment activities for young people in the UK, and supported by both Woodham and Greenfield schools.
Mr Wilson, the Labour MP for Sedgefield who successfully led the campaign to bring Hitachi Rail Europe’s Intercity Express Programme to Aycliffe, said: “I think it’s a fantastic idea and one I wholeheartedly support.
“Apprenticeships used to be the natural step for most people when leaving school, but there seems to be a stigma attached to apprenticeships in the construction and engineering industry – it’s normally associated with oil and grease – and there’s so much more to them than that.
“It’s important for some students to realise their full potential at college and university, but apprenticeships are an excellent career path for a lot of school leavers and can be the platform to a hugely-successful career.”
Sarah McGinnety, Assistant Headteacher at Woodham Academy, added: “We want to educate our students and their families in what following an apprenticeship route might bring to their future.
“For a lot of young people, college may be their chosen path, but this does at least give them a taster of industry – even if it isn’t for them, this programme will enlighten them and help them make an informed decision about their future.
“We’ll also involve parents and guardians in the programme, as it’s important that they also see what apprenticeships in these industries are all about.”
The Aycliffe Apprenticeship Awareness Programme will launch at Woodham on September 19, with around 150 students split into six tutor groups, and then young people will visit company sites week beginning September 24.
● Pictured above (left to right): Aycliffe Fabrications managing director Dave Spensley, Xcel Centre manager Kerina Clark, Phil Wilson MP, Finley Structures managing director John Finley and Tallents operations director Dave Long.