Burnley MP Antony Higginbotham column | Aerospace apprenticeships could provide employment for years to come

There’s been a buzz of activity this week in Parliament, not least with the arrival of the Ukrainian President, who on Wednesday addressed both Houses in Westminster Hall to thank the UK for our continued support against Putin’s forces.
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Russia’s barbaric war must come to an end. And however hard the challenges, the UK stands firmly with Ukraine. Because freedom must win!

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With the UK’s next generation fighter aircraft programme also continuing to take shape, and the importance of air power highlighted by the war in Ukraine, I had the opportunity to bang the drum for the aerospace sector in Burnley and Padiham.

Burnley MP Antony HigginbothamBurnley MP Antony Higginbotham
Burnley MP Antony Higginbotham
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In PMQs I spoke of Team Tempest – a joint programme which is seeing the very best engineering minds come together to deliver a sixth-generation combat aircraft. It’s no surprise that a big part of that is already taking place in Lancashire.

As one of the largest aerospace clusters in the world, Lancashire is already a major partner in the manufacturing of the most advanced aircraft - the F-35 fighter - as well as the Typhoon which forms the backbone of the Royal Air Force.

Team Tempest includes a number of major Lancashire manufacturers, including BAE Systems, Rolls Royce and SMEs in the supply chain. But what we really need to see is Team Tempest accelerated and for full production to take place in Lancashire within the decade.

Because investment on this level would not only see thousands more highly skilled jobs coming to our area, but a huge number of apprenticeships generated which would provide employment for decades to come.

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Talking apprenticeships, this week has been National Apprenticeship Week. And figures released on Monday is a testament to the work taking place locally. We’ve seen an 8% increase from the previous year and almost 12,000 since 2010. Backed by government reforms, and an additional £2.3 billion to better link up industry with education providers, progress is being made.

And having attended the Themis Awards only last week I know just how transformative apprenticeships can be to those undertaking them.

For years there's been too much of a push for university, which whilst great for some, doesn't work for all. And is why Government is right to change UCAS so it now advertises both university degrees and apprenticeships. This is the point I made to the Education Secretary, once an apprentice herself, when I met with her this week. Because placing both on an equal footing ensures that our young people have all the options presented to them.