Apprenticeship ambassador drops in to back pioneering North Herts skills project

Construction Skills Academy in Hitchin - visit of Peter Lilley MP and government apprenticeships amb

Construction Skills Academy in Hitchin - visit of Peter Lilley MP and government apprenticeships ambassador Gordon Birtwhistle as new partnership with North Herts College is confirmed - Credit: Archant

Government apprenticeship ambassador Gordon Birtwhistle donned hard hat and high-vis jacket when he toured a pioneering Hitchin skills centre.

The Construction Skills Academy in Walsworth Road was established last year to address a growing skills shortage in the construction industry.

Backed by Letchworth-based drylinning specialists The Grays Group, it takes potential recruits off the dole queue, teaches them the skills they need, provides them with tools – and guarantees a job at the end of the course.

The academy is also supported by leading names in the industry and the Department of Work & Pensions.

Hitchin & Harpenden MP Peter Lilley was so impressed when he saw the set-up that he helped forge links with North Herts College which has allowed the academy – which aims to move to new premises in Stevenage town centre later this year – to upgrade its course to offer recognised national qualifications.

Mr Lilley said: “After decades of neglecting apprenticeships in the UK, they are now a key government priority. Schools, colleges, and employers must work together to convince parents that a good apprenticeship or vocational course can be as prestigious a basis for a future career as going to university.”

Burnley MP Mr Birtwhistle said that he had Mr Lilley were probably the only elected members of the House of Commons to have served an apprenticeship themselves. He was full of praise for the work being done at the centre, and the innovative links between industry and education.

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The academy aims to provide training for 240 people this year, and anyone can apply for the free courses – visit to find out more.

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