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It is a pleasure to participate in this debate, which has been characterised by positive and constructive contributions from all parts of the House. That shows just how much support there is for more and better apprenticeships.
I am proud to represent a constituency with a strong manufacturing base and a strong and vibrant logistics industry. Apprenticeships have always been a feature of these industries. When I meet the wealth creators in Thurrock, without exception they are people who have learned their skills in the workplace. That fact needs to be understood. For many people, choosing an apprenticeship will be the most effective route to their personal advancement. I would like to highlight some successful local programmes and, in doing so, highlight some areas where the Government could do more to encourage better apprenticeships.
The port of Tilbury has always offered a number of apprenticeships each year, placing a high emphasis on skills and even establishing its own logistics academy to provide bespoke training that suits its business. This year the port has developed a new apprenticeship in health and safety, which is central to its business, as ports are hazardous places. The port has advised me, however, that the apprenticeship framework can often prove inflexible for the kind of training that it wishes to offer. I suggest to the Minister that we need to ensure that the framework focuses on equipping workers with the intended skill, rather than just ticking boxes.
In addition to the established industries, Thurrock also has an emerging centre of excellence in the creative industries. My hon. Friend the Minister saw this for himself only last week, when he visited the new Backstage Centre, which will provide a great deal of training through putting on live musical and theatrical events. The creative industries are a growing sector, but it is also a sector that is characterised by self-employment and small and medium-sized enterprises. That is another area in which the Government really need to do more work. It can be daunting for a sole trader to take on the onus and responsibility of managing an apprentice, but the National Skills Academy for Creative & Cultural has provided a collective framework to enable a number of SMEs and sole traders to come together and offer training to young people. There is a need to pass on those skills to other people if we are going to make the most of that growing industry, in which Britain leads the world.
I want to highlight the example of a particular individual who is currently going through his apprenticeship with the Royal Opera House. Not all Members will know this, but the Royal Opera House’s production park is in my constituency of Thurrock. Everything that those Members who enjoy going to the opera see on stage has been made in Thurrock—and very proud of that we are, too.
The Royal Opera House’s current apprentice is a young man named Jamie Ashwell. He decided to take up the offer of an apprenticeship rather than doing a stage management degree at university. For Jamie, the choice was simple. He is working for a world-leading arts organisation, getting experience of real projects and working with leading practitioners in the industry—and he is being paid, to boot. I envisage that, in the future, some of the strongest apprenticeship places will be as hotly contested as some of our most prestigious university places.
The apprenticeship route also suits the Royal Opera House. It needs people with real practical skills in the type of work that it does. People with arts degrees who apply for jobs in its costume or make-up departments, for example, do not necessarily have the required technical skills. By offering apprenticeships, the Royal Opera House can train people up in areas such as bespoke tailoring and wig-making—true crafts that are not available to those studying for degrees.