ANDREW STEPHENSON MP: Aerospace plays a huge role in our economy

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To mark National Apprenticeship Week, in addition to my activities in Westminster, I was out and about visiting businesses across Pendle.

I spent a couple of hours at Training2000 in Nelson meeting engineering apprentices from a range of different companies.

I was reminded of the huge amount of skills and knowledge engineering apprentices have to absorb by Sam, an apprentice at Weston EU in Earby, who tried to show me how to create a fairly basic part.

After about an hour, I think we both concluded I would never be an engineer!

On Thursday, I visited WJC Limited in Brierfield before attending Nelson and Colne College Business Awards and planned to visit three more businesses to meet their apprentices – Standel Dawman, Ashberry and Roaming Roosters.

Also I organised an event with UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) at the ACE Centre in Nelson to discuss the support available to help Pendle firms export. For the event, I partnered with East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, UKTI and British Embassy Germany to discuss achieving growth through exporting.

The aim is to help companies across Pendle achieve growth through exporting. Exports from the North West alone were estimated at £26 billion last year and this kind of boost to the region’s economy will hopefully make Pendle a hub for exports in Lancashire and provide jobs for the area. Over 30 delegates from companies across Pendle attended and were able to take advantage of the export market in much the same way that companies like ACDC lighting in Barrowford or Euravia in Kelbrook have been able to.

Thinking about Pendle businesses, people often fail to realise the large number of people still employed locally in the aerospace industry.

At the moment we are the leading country in Europe with regards to aerospace and only behind the United States on the global stage.

But one of the biggest challenges we face in Britain is making sure graduates and apprentices want to work in the aerospace industry, rather than take up sometimes more financially rewarding careers in finance or business.

Late last year, I again visited the Rolls-Royce site in Barnoldswick to look at the latest developments they have made and what challenges they are facing in future. As treasurer of the All-Party Parliamentary Aerospace Group, I recently met some of the directors of Rolls-Royce and will continue to make the case for investment in the Barnoldswick site.

Recently I have also met representatives from Airbus. Although they are not based in Pendle, many of the parts and equipment they use are manufactured here by small and medium-sized enterprises. Airbus employs over 100,000 people through the extended supply chain, which is worth £2 billion to the economy. I want to continue to work with them to make sure those small businesses in Pendle are able to play a bigger role in the supply chain and can create more jobs.