With the countdown to the general election well under way, the first of the political big guns on the campaign trail, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Ed Balls, visited Sussex Coast College, Ore Valley Campus, to meet local apprentices, tutors, and local employers.
Joining Mr Balls on his visit to the college last Thursday (February 5) was prospective Labour party parliamentary candidate, Sarah Owen.
The Shadow Chancellor spent around two hours at Ore Valley Campus, which opened in March 2011. After a meet and greet with college staff, Mr Balls and Ms Owen toured the college’s 7,000 square metres of realistic working environments, viewed the workshops and ‘live build’ areas, where students build, wire, plumb, fit-out and decorate a full-size house in the central atrium.
The visit included an engineering practical demonstration ‘facing off a piece of brass and doing a turning activity on a centre lathe’, lead by mechanical engineering tutor Keith Bull and apprentice Sam Watson.
Mr Balls was impressed by what he saw. He said: “It was definitely a first for me. It’s really good to see the enthusiasm of the young people doing the apprenticeships and also the teaching staff, the college and the employers.
“You can see why Hastings is bucking the trend because across the South East the number of apprenticeships for young people is going down and the good work of this college means they’ve actually gone up for the people of Hastings.”
Mr Balls said education standards for future employment prospects are important. He said: “It’s vital, it’s much much harder to get a good job unless you’ve got basic skills in maths, English,and IT, and increasingly vocational expertise which employers want, so we need a lot more of what’s happening here (at this college). These young people are going to come out with skills which really fit the purpose for employers.
He added: “This will be a real priority for the next Labour government to make sure that all our young people get the skills they need to get the jobs of the future.”
Ms Owen said some local businesses expressed how enthusiastic they were at having apprentices, working with the college to improve skills needed in the jobs market.
Dan Shelley, Vice Principal of Enterprise, Employment and Skills said it was a pleasure to welcome the Shadow Chancellor to the college to witness first-hand “the great work our Apprenticeships programme does, working with local employers and young people alike.” Keith Ball added: “It was nice to have a high profile person in the workshop. It certainly boosted moral.”