Careers event showcases abundance of work opportunities in North Herts

Skills Minister Alex Burghart officially opened Generation Hitchin at The Priory alongside Sir Oliver Heald and Bim Afolami

Apprenticeships and Skills Minister Alex Burghart officially opened the Generation Hitchin event - designed to help 15-18-year-olds make the most of their future - at The Priory alongside Sir Oliver Heald MP and Bim Afolami MP - Credit: Quintessential Photography

The Skills Minister, Alex Burghart, ventured up to Hitchin to kickstart a careers fair for young people, showcasing incredible employment opportunities on their doorstep.

Aimed at 15 to 18-year-olds in Hitchin and the wider North Herts area, Generation Hitchin's event at The Priory yesterday (October 21) saw world-class employers in engineering, construction, retail, science, hospitality, healthcare, professional services, film and media convene in championing careers in their respective sectors.

Skills Minister Alex Burghart officially opened Generation Hitchin at The Priory alongside Sir Oliver Heald and Bim Afolami

Apprenticeships and Skills Minister Alex Burghart officially opened the Generation Hitchin event - designed to help 15-18-year-olds make the most of their future - at The Priory alongside Sir Oliver Heald MP and Bim Afolami MP - Credit: Quintessential Photography

Companies showcasing career, training and apprenticeship opportunities included retail giant Amazon, Oliver Bonas, Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult, MBDA, University of Hertfordshire and North Hertfordshire Council.

Delighted to be at the event, Sir Oliver Heald, MP for North East Hertfordshire stated that it was "marvellous to be back to a more normal way of life, and that young people can get the advantages of a fair like this, and actually see the offer that's out there".

He continued: "On a personal note, as an MP who was stuck for a long time behind a computer just doing Teams meetings and Zooming, it's delightful to be able to get out and meet people and do the things that we normally do."

Reassured by the amount of support for getting young people in his constituency mobilised in education and employment opportunities as we emerge from the pandemic, Sir Oliver added: "I've written to all the local businesses on behalf of the Kickstart Scheme, to get as many youngsters as possible having a start at work.

"There's a danger that people will have a gap in their life between school and work. It's about willing that as quickly as possible so people are back on track.

Sir Oliver Heald, MP for North East Hertfordshire at the Generation Hitchin event at The Priory

Sir Oliver Heald, MP for North East Hertfordshire, said modern apprenticeships "give people a good opportunity and a real credible alternative to the university route" - Credit: Quintessential Photography

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"These modern apprenticeships are in all walks of life, and they do give people a good opportunity and a real credible alternative to the university route."

Joking that "man cannot live on Zoom alone", Bim Afolami, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, expressed the importance of the presence of local figures integrated within the community, for the benefit of the community.

"So much of politics is being able to show people what you're doing as well as actually doing it," he said.

"Hitchin's role is not just for people in Hitchin, it's for the villages south and north of Hitchin. It's the people on the edge of Bedfordshire. 

"Hitchin is hugely important and has a rich history, so it's important that we keep it as a centre, not just as somewhere for people who live there, it's for the surrounding areas as well.

Adding that the town and the wider North Herts area boasts "job opportunities of the highest level," Bim explained: "What we've got now is a lot of people coming from London or elsewhere that think Hitchin is a great place to be - and I'm glad they do - but they've got to recognise that when they bring up their families here, their kids and indeed grandkids in time, will have opportunities in North Hertfordshire.

"It's a great place to be and work locally, and be part of the local community."

At the event, the Skills Minister Alex Burghart told this paper: "I'm extremely pleased and impressed by what I'm seeing here, because what we want to do is build better links between trainers, apprenticeship providers, businesses, FE colleges, schools. We want to start a whole host of conversations across the country, and it's really heartening to come here to Hitchin to see they're already happening.

Skills Minister Alex Burghart and Bim Afolami at Generation Hitchin's careers event at The Priory, Hitchin

Skills Minister Alex Burghart and Bim Afolami at Generation Hitchin's careers event at The Priory, Hitchin - Credit: Quintessential Photography

"The two excellent local MPs, Bim and Oliver, are playing a key role in bringing things together."

Adrian Hawkins, chair of the Stevenage Development Board, Hertfordshire LEP Skills and Employment Board and biz4Biz said at in-person events like Generation Hitchin are vital to building our workforce to be better than its been before.

"I'm very keen to bring all the components together and help them on their way to success.

Adrian Hawkins, Stevenage Development Board, Hertfordshire LEP Skills and Employment Board and biz4Biz at Generation Hitchin

Adrian Hawkins, chair of the Stevenage Development Board, Hertfordshire LEP Skills and Employment Board and biz4Biz at the Generation Hitchin event at The Priory on October 21 - Credit: Quintessential Photography

"What we have are some really fantastic young people all over Hertfordshire - North Herts in particular - and we have some fantastic employers. What we've got to try and do is to make sure that when they're joining the dots and joining them appropriately and correctly."

He added: "HOP - Hertfordshire Opportunities Portal - is our way of bringing them all together, and events like this careers fair - Generation Stevenage, Generation Watford and Generation Hitchin - is another way of bringing young people together with employers and looking at the potential for them to be employees of these sorts of companies."

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