As we welcome in the New Year, the new start is proving great for our area. 2015 saw the largest rise in house prices in Bury St Edmunds by almost 13%. A handful of Suffolk’s community leaders received honours on the New Year’s Honours List and the town is ready to blossom as Bury In Bloom replenishes our town’s floral display.
What is more, statistics have shown that our local economy, for another year, has continued to thrive. A weekly average of more than 83,000 people visited the town in December, a 5% rise on the previous year. In just one year, unemployment in the constituency is down by 20% with 145 fewer individuals now claiming jobseeker support.
Yet the good news doesn’t end there. New figures show that 5,032 new apprenticeships have started up in the Bury St Edmunds constituency since 2010, making our town the fifth highest employer of apprenticeships in the East of England. This news accompanies a 25% fall in 18-24 year olds seeking employment. With over 200 different types of apprenticeships available countrywide, this news just goes to show that our area really is a hotbed of opportunity and business.
Last summer I met several young apprentices at the opening of new Havebury housing. I was struck by just how transformative the programme can be. Not only does it enable young people to partake in local development programmes but it strengthens their aspirations to succeed. Now more than ever, a whole generation are seeing quality apprenticeships in equal measure to university, as a means to their future.
Only recently, Greene King was commended by the Prime Minister in delivering more than 2,000 new apprenticeships within just ten months whilst Stowmarket welcomes a brand new MyGo Youth Employment Centre to deliver young people into new jobs being made available. It is the work of local trailblazing businesses and providers which pair up talented individuals to their ideal career paths.
More generally, 2.6 million people are an apprentice in industries ranging from construction to fashion. The National Apprenticeship Awards are now in their twelfth year in recognising the contributions of hard working businesses and apprentices and this year’s National Apprenticeship Week due to be hosted next month, is tipped to be the best yet.
Apprenticeships offer exciting prospects and opportunities for young people making the ever difficult transition from education to employment. I know one day I hope to offer an apprenticeship for those young people with an interest in politics. Whilst an apprenticeship scheme may not be for everyone, it is essential in providing choice in one of the most crucial decision a young person can make. Now that is something worth supporting.
-- Jo Churchill is MP for Bury St Edmunds and Stowmarket