The local MP behind a new apprenticeships bill is so impressed by the work the North East Apprenticeship Company’s (NEAC) been doing in finding apprentices for regional employers that she’s now asking it to find one for herself.

Catherine McKinnell, the MP for Newcastle North, wants to recruit an administration apprentice for her busy Westerhope constituency office after seeing firsthand the expertise and support the NEAC offers to employers looking at apprenticeships to improve workforce skills.

The NEAC has a regional brief to expand apprenticeship positions, tackling the skills gap to create more than 1000 new apprentice jobs in the next two years, particularly among small and medium enterprises (SMEs). It undertakes the recruitment of people, provides an HR function for all the apprentices as well as organising their training using locally-based providers.

Almost 150 North East companies have already signed up with the NEAC since it was launched and 450 potential apprentices have also registered for placements.

Catherine McKinnell was struck by the NEAC’s approach to business and the support it offers, particularly the collaborative approach it takes to working with industry and commerce and its role in highlighting the value of apprentices and the benefits offered to organisations planning for growth as the economic recovery continues.

The MP has been an advocate of apprenticeships and is herself leading by example – she is steering through parliament the ‘Apprenticeships and Skills (Public Procurement Contracts) Bill’, which aims to introduce a requirement that contracts awarded by public authorities include a commitment that successful bidders employ apprentices.

An apprentice is now required who can join Catherine’s team which deals with a wide range of constituency matters and manages her busy parliamentary schedule.

The new apprentice will be involved in a variety of tasks to help ensure the smooth running of the office, including answering the telephone, dealing with emails, ordering stationery, filing and dealing with enquiries from constituents.

They will also get the chance to add to the skills learnt in the workplace by going to a local college to study for an NVQ qualification in business administration.

“I’m really looking forward to this as I’m a big supporter of apprenticeships,” said Catherine McKinnell. “It’s a great chance for someone to join us who’s not only out-going and got bags of enthusiasm to offer but is friendly and efficient.

“The job will certainly be different and they’ll learn a great deal about not only working in an office but also the work of an MP.

“It’ll also be an ideal and rewarding opportunity for someone who’s keen to learn, work hard but also gain excellent workplace skills and contribute positively to the successful running of a busy office.”

Catherine McKinnell has previous experience of working with apprentices and is keen to see more organisations hiring them in the future – one of the reasons behind her decision to bring in her bill.

“It is vital that we continue to invest in people to ensure regional employers have the highly trained and skilled workforces they need to be competitive in the increasingly global economy.

“I was impressed by the work the North East Apprenticeship Company is doing in achieving this. The service it provides is extremely valuable and among the best in the region.

“It’s doing a terrific job in raising the profile of apprenticeships regionally while helping public and private sector organisations engage positively with apprentices.”

Managing director of the NEAC, Paul Champion, said: “Catherine’s backing is welcome and shows the support for apprenticeships at the highest political level.

“The Government is committed to apprenticeships and sees them as a key weapon in the battle to secure Britain’s future skills’ needs.

“This will ensure our industries are fully equipped to meet the challenges of competing for business against the emerging power houses like India and China and others through the provision of a highly trained and resourceful workforce.

“We can not only recruit young people for exciting opportunities but support employers across a range of sectors with advice and administrative services which make it quick and easy to take on apprentices.”

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