Mark Lancaster was at Milton Keynes College during Apprenticeship Week to celebrate the work of employers, providers and apprentices.
The visit also provided an opportunity to learn about the challenges facing apprenticeship schemes and the huge potential they have in up-skilling the local workforce.
Present at the meeting were large household name employers such as Nissan, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, MK based Niftylift etc but also in attendance were smaller to medium sized businesses such as Decesare Hairdressing and FSG Property Services - all of whom provide apprenticeships across several sectors Milton Keynes through the college.
The apprentices present spoke highly of the benefits of 'on the job learning' in a structured environment as opposed to "being stuck in a classroom at college or uni". However, the negative stigma surrounding apprenticeships as a "lesser" education route compared to university degrees was raised as an obstacle to attracting more school leavers. That said, the number of apprenticeship starts in Milton Keynes has increased rapidly over the last decade. In 2009 just 1,100 people started an apprenticeship, last year that figure almost doubled to 2,000 starts.
In response to key points from the meeting, Mark Lancaster said "I am delighted to see more of our young people considering apprenticeships after finishing their secondary education. Being an apprentice is no less vital to our economic growth as is holding a university degree and I look forward to doing more in making the case for apprenticeships in our local area"