ANDREW STEPHENSON MP: Great news about unemployment figures

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News that both unemployment is down again in Pendle and there has been a record number of apprenticeships should be welcomed.

Being out of work can be a huge personal tragedy. That is why I have always said helping support our local businesses expand and create well paid jobs is a top priority. I am also dedicated to ensuring every person who wants to work hard and get on in life has the skills they need to compete and thrive.

The latest figures show that, in Pendle, we have more than doubled the number of apprenticeships, bigger than the rise across the North West (89%) or the UK as a whole (86%). In 2011/12, 907 people started an apprenticeship in Pendle – an increase of 106% compared to under the last Government.

The data also has provisional results for the number of apprenticeship starts in the first quarter of 2012/13 – in April to June, 2012, 390 people started apprenticeships in just three months. Most telling however is that there are currently still a large number of apprenticeship vacancies with local employers available via Nelson and Colne College, Training2000 and other providers.

We must continue to strive to ensure our young people have the skills employers are looking for and are ready to take up an apprenticeship or work opportunity. The Government has introduced the Pupil Premium, which puts an additional £2.5 billion into school funding, as a way of addressing the current inequalities between children eligible for free school meals and their wealthier peers. This has meant that the Pendle schools educating the children for the poorest backgrounds have received extra funding to help address the additional challenges and disadvantages these children face.

In addition to this, the Government has supplied over £20m. in funding for four of our primary schools to be totally rebuilt (Barnoldswick CE, Laneshaw Bridge Primary, St Paul’s in Nelson, and Whitefield Infants) and West Craven High School is set to benefit from a multi-million pound investment.

Last week I visited the new £18m. University Technical College in Burnley that I had campaigned for and that Pendle manufacturers such as Rolls-Royce, Graham Engineering and Weston EU said we needed.

It is fantastic to see Victoria Mill being transformed into a hands on learning space for young people who want to go on to work in engineering or manufacturing. However, the most exciting thing is that Visions Learning Trust will be equipping our young people with the skills local employers say they desperately need.

I would strongly encourage local parents and young people to take a look at the website setting out what will be on offer, as I know it will appeal to many in Pendle.

Young people looking for the first step on the career ladder should also look out for news of my next Jobs Fair, due to take place in June. I last hosted a Jobs Fair in February last year that was well attended by employers and job seekers alike and helped a number in to jobs, apprenticeships or training opportunities.