She said the government was backing the apprenticeship system, however there was a need to challenge some misconceptions, adding: “The best way to do that is for employers to speak to other employers about their actual experiences and to share their fantastic stories.”

To that end three conference panel discussions, involving company bosses and training and education providers, examined the future of skills and looked at apprenticeships for businesses and for people.

The conference discussed the need for more digital skills across all sectors as Lancashire

began to come out of the Covid-19 pandemic.

 managing director of Blackpool Transport, and Yaseer Ahmed, director of strategy and organisational development at Preston-based tile, bathroom and kitchen business Roccia.

They explained the impact apprenticeships have had on their organisations – and shared how they are not just about training new staff but can make a positive difference to existing workforces.

 had played an important part in Blackpool Transport’s transformational journey, including

a leadership programme developed with Blackpool and The Fylde College.

She said: “They understood that we needed to have not just technical skills in the organisation but leadership skills as well.”

Yaseer told the conference about his company’s work with Preston’s College to create a tiling academy as part of its commitment to its local community.

He also explained how the business is also looking to use the apprenticeship system to upskill its existing workforce.

He added: “It is a long-term investment and it is without doubt worth that investment.”


Dave Walker

managing director of +24 Academy

Neil Burrows

director of Themis and assistant principal of Burnley College

Rowena Brough

head of work-based learning at Nelson and Colne College

Neil Ainsworth director of

Wave Internet Chris Baldwin

managing director of Sugden

Collaboration is vital if Lancashire is to bridge its skills gap and harness the full power of the apprenticeship system.

That was one of the key messages that came out of Lancashire Business View’s 2021 Apprenticeships Conference.

The conference heard about the partnership work that is already taking place between training and education providers and business leaders – and the need for more.

The importance of including apprentices themselves in the conversation was also highlighted.

Neil Burrows, assistant principal of Burnley College, said: “Putting 

Employers and providers had to work together to provide the specialist skills that were needed, he added. Bodies awarding 

He also explained how the college was working with Lancashire SMEs to get young people excited about possible careers.

Rowena Brough, head of work-based learning at Nelson and Colne College, added: “For me the key to this is the employer relationship. We need to work with them.

“Employers are feeding us information, telling us what they require. They are being proactive so we know what the needs are.”


developing the individual for the wider society and developing their skills,” she explained.

Dave Walker, managing director of +24 Academy, said digital skills were vital as businesses were changing rapidly. And he pointed out that 82 per cent of all jobs advertised now required digital skills.

He said there was a “massive digital skills gap” that was costing the UK economy £63bn a year, adding: “Imagine what that could do to our economic recovery coming out of Covid.”

Chris Baldwin, managing director of Nelson manufacturer Sugden, is a product of the apprenticeship system and continues to champion it.

He said that around one third of the group’s workforce were home grown apprentices, including a current director, and he added: “Without apprenticeship schemes we would really struggle with 

He said he would like to see more work experience so that young people could get an understanding of what career paths were available to them

Neil Ainsworth, director of Blackburn technology business Wave Internet, shared his experience of looking for the ideal apprenticeship 

He said: “My main remit was to get someone with some ‘zap’. If you persevere you get there. I was looking for one and I ended up with three.”






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