Sharon met with Sarah in Parliament, to hear first-hand her experience of being a Business Apprentice and to celebrate National Apprenticeship Week 2018, which runs from 5 to 9 March.
Co-ordinated by the National Apprenticeship Service, National Apprenticeship Week 2018 is the 11th annual week-long celebration of apprenticeships in England and is designed to celebrate apprenticeships and the positive impact they have on individuals, businesses, local communities and the wider economy.
During the Week employers and apprentices from across England will come together to celebrate the success of apprenticeships whilst encouraging even more people to choose an apprenticeship as the pathway to a great career.
“It is great to meet apprentices here in Parliament. Apprenticeships are so important to those undertaking them – giving them the skills they need to succeed in life and in a role they want to progress in – and to employers, giving them the opportunity to mould and shape the workforce they need.
“I am delighted to support National Apprenticeship Week this year, and pay tribute to employers who are contributing to local economies through apprenticeships whilst demonstrating that apprenticeships work for individuals, employers, and the community.’’
During National Apprenticeship Week, Sharon was honoured to open Unipres' new Training Academy.
You can read Sharon's speech below.
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Thank you for inviting me to be here today to mark the opening of a fantastic new facility that will kick start the careers of young people wishing to enter into engineering, for generations to come.
High-quality apprenticeships are a vital way to help young people take their first steps into working life, and offer many young people the chance to earn and learn at the same time. That is why I am always delighted when local businesses in our community provide young people with these opportunities; Unipres has a long history of doing so.
We all know it, but young people are the future. Companies like Unipres who invest in the future are not only doing right by young people in the area, but by themselves as a business, as they build a strong and sustainable future.
Today's opening is about just that. It’s about creating a space that will strengthen Unipres’ team, and one that will also create so many opportunities for young people in and around Sunderland.
Nationally we have seen a real push for apprenticeships, and this has spurred on the more forward-thinking companies to look at new ways of growing their own talent.
That is why it is excellent to see Unipres tap into this national issue with the opening of their training academy, which will not only prepare themselves to manufacture more than just car parts, but also invest more in the workforce here in Sunderland.
Businesses are fuelled by people – while machines and facilities are one part of the picture, critically it all relies upon people, skilled people, to drive business and to innovate and create.
Sunderland has that, based in part on what I believe to be the innate abilities of the people of Sunderland when it comes to manufacturing and engineering, and also the dedication of local businesses to invest in the workforce in our area.
Combine both of our natural skills and industry-led training and you have a recipe for success, and today’s opening celebrates that.
Unipres working hand in hand with the city's college and the city council to deliver this Training Academy will be a great success for our City, and I am proud to have this initiative based in my constituency.
Sunderland College, and the FE sector at large, has faced incredible scrutiny from Government over the last year or so, but its role in bringing through talented young people who are ready to take the reins from the leaders of today, cannot be underestimated.
It is heartening to see a local business that has a commitment to this city is also reflecting a commitment to localism in its work with the education sector, and I am sure it will yield a strong partnership for many years to come. We have some tremendous assets in the city, and we must encourage them to work together to deliver bigger, better things for the next generation.
The automotive sector presents a huge opportunity for Sunderland. Despite the challenges that lie ahead as we begin our exit from the European Union, we still have a strong unique selling point as an attractive and flourishing automotive hub.
What this academy does is give Sunderland a vote of confidence, which will send a clear message to other businesses that may be looking at this part of the world. What this message says is: we are open for business.
Pair this message with the planned developments, such as the IAMP not far from here, then there is a world of opportunity out there for our City.
But the Government must make sure that this work done at a local level is supported and sustainable by ensuring what goes on nationally complements this work, but also local work is not hindered as we enter the negotiations to exit the EU and then leave the EU.
As the local Member of Parliament, I am fully committed to supporting the manufacturing sector here in Sunderland – as I am sure we all are in this room today.
Today is a fantastic step for the UK automotive sector, the North East, and especially for Sunderland. It’s a credit to Unipres, and to the skills of the team at the company, who have helped create the level of confidence needed for this fantastic business to continue with its investment in our great City.
I am both proud and delighted to be here today at the opening of Unipres’ Training Academy. Congratulations and I know it will go from strength to strength.
Sharon Hodgson with Unipres Staff, Gatsby Project team; George Ritchie, Chair of the North East Apprenticeship Ambassador Network and Associate Director PX group and pupils and staff from Link School and Biddick Academy - 14th March 2016
Image Copyright: Unipres 2016.
For National Apprenticeship Week 2016, Sharon was invited to Unipres in Sunderland to welcome the beginning of the week, meet with apprentices and have a tour of the Unipres factory. In her speech, Sharon spoke about the importance of apprenticeships to helping young people reach their potential in life and recognised the work done by Unipres in Sunderland over their 27 years based in the City to support the local economy and workforce.
You can read Sharon's speech here below:
Thank you for inviting me to join you for today’s launch of National Apprenticeships Week celebrations here at Unipres.
It is wonderful that National Apprenticeship Week, which started in 2008, is now in its ninth year where we continue to showcase the positive impact apprentices have on our economy, whilst celebrating the tens of thousands who are currently developing their skills, expertise and knowledge through an apprenticeship, may it be in nuclear technology, fashion design, or of course, car manufacturing.
After the success of last year’s celebrations which saw 600 events held right across the country and businesses pledging to increase apprenticeship numbers by 23,000, I hope this year’s events will build on those achievements ensuring we reaffirm our commitment to apprenticeships as a vehicle to achieve great success in life.
This year’s theme for National Apprenticeships Week is all about rising to the top and recognising the importance an apprenticeship can have on an individual achieving their potential, by learning and earning at the same time.
This is something which is at the very heart of the business ethos of Unipres, who for the last 26 years, have been an important employer here on Wearside, whilst developing a close relationship with Nissan to whom they supply parts for the cars manufactured just up the road.
Unipres’ clear commitment to Sunderland’s local workforce is shown through their continued investment into training local people, providing sustainable and high-quality job opportunities and nurturing a sense of pride in the work that goes on here in Sunderland.
In recent years Unipres has invested heavily into their factory here on Wearside with capital investment of over £40 million between 2012 and 2013 in preparation for the increased production at Nissan, and more recently Renault.
This led to an additional investment of nearly £13 million to install two new presses – which went live just before Christmas and I hope we will get to see them in action later this morning – this created 22 additional new jobs at the factory to work on the production of supplies for both Nissan and Honda’s assembly plant in Swindon, along with exporting to international markets including mainland Europe and Russia.
Parallel to all of this investment into the future of the business, there has been just as much investment into the future of the workforce where over the last year there has been a doubling in the number of apprentices based at the factory.
In total, Unipres now has over 60 apprentices who are studying for their qualifications in engineering, electrical engineering and die and tool-making whilst training hands-on here in order to reinforce what they learn in the classroom.
For any of those young men or women here today, I wish you all the very best with your studies and future career success here at Unipres.
But as the leadership here know the work to inspire the next generation coming into the workforce starts way before they join the business as an apprentice. That is why Unipres has supported an excellent initiative, called Industrial Cadets, which aims to spark the imagination and minds of young people about the career possibilities within engineering and the sometimes unknown career success that can come with starting a high-quality apprenticeship.
That is why it is wonderful that this year’s National Apprenticeship Week celebrations in the North-East have been launched today here at Unipres – showing appreciation of the leadership of Plant Director, John Cruddace, and the hard-work and dedication of everyone who works here.
This week is all about celebration and marking the importance of apprenticeships, and I wish all the success in the world to this year’s National Apprenticeship Week and hope that events like this inspire the young people attending to start an apprenticeship so they too can achieve their full potential and reach the top of their chosen career.