As part of National Apprenticeship Week, I was delighted to meet with the Minister for Apprenticeships & Skills, Gillian Keegan MP, and a brilliant group of young apprentices! It is great to hear more about the Skills for Jobs White Paper. I really want to see this Paper being used to strengthen the opportunities for apprentices in Broxtowe.
On this, there are three things I think we need to do. The first is to build on the fact that the foundations of the Government’s proposals are built on these apprenticeship standards as employer-led. I will be pushing to make sure employers are really at the heart of the system.
Secondly, in terms of accessibility to apprenticeships, we need to make it much easier for small and medium-sized businesses to access the apprenticeships. This is something I will continue to push for and I am glad to see the Minister championing this in Government.
Another great point to raise is that we know that, post-Covid, there are going to be a lot of adults that want to retrain. Importantly, not everyone will want to go back and do an apprenticeship so we are also looking at how we can have more alternative and flexible routes to be able to upskill and reskill people as well. I am delighted the Government is committing to all of the above.
Clearly, there is a lot of business uncertainty during the pandemic. But looking to the future, there will be a lot that we will continue to build on. In particular, make sure that high-quality standards continue to evolve with what businesses need, and making sure that these valuable apprenticeships are more broadly available to many more people.
On this point, I still think we need to set out a medium-term plan of what lies ahead. Businesses need certainty and people need to be able to plan. We also need a longer-term recovery for our local businesses - I will be raising this once again to the Government, outlining our case in Broxtowe.
Part of this case was made directly to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy this week in the Chamber. Here, I asked him what flexibility could be provided for local councils to allow grants underspent in one area of business support to be spent in other areas. This would make a significant and positive impact on our local businesses and I will keep fighting to get that extra support for our community. Equally, for those falling through the gaps in Broxtowe, I will continue to raise your case to colleagues in Parliament following further conversations I have held with constituents over the past week.
On vaccines, this week I had another briefing call with the Minister for Vaccine Deployment, Nadhim Zahawi on the COVID-19 vaccine with fellow Nottinghamshire MPs. It is good to hear that in Nottingham and Nottinghamshire, those over 65 are now being invited to have their coronavirus vaccination. Anyone eligible can book by calling 0115 8834640 or via the local booking site. Equally, if you are helping someone eligible to book in for their vaccination, there is guidance on the Clinical Commissioning Group website which can help.
This week, Nottinghamshire have done incredible work in the roll-out of the vaccination programme across the county. Over 90% of people aged over 80, 93.4% of people aged 75-79 and two thirds of those aged 70-74 have already received their first dose of the vaccine. I would like to extend my thanks to our local Clinical Commissioning Group, medical professionals and volunteers who are making such a success of the vaccine roll-out.
I am concerned about the mental health effects of people in long term care not being able to have meaningful access to families since March. So, I called a meeting with Helen Whately MP, Minister of State (Minister for Care), to raise these concerns to Government directly. This is an important point and I am glad to have the ball rolling on this.
Transport was top of the agenda at this week’s Midlands Engine All-Party Parliamentary Group. I was delighted our keynote speaker was Minister of State at the Department for Transport, Chris Heaton-Harris MP. Here, we called for bringing in a step-change in Government promises of levelling up the Midlands. The last 12 months have been unprecedented and we must do everything we can to rebuild and recover - minimising the lasting impact on our communities, our businesses and our economy putting the Midlands at the heart of a green recovery.
I would also like to say thank you to all those who got in touch with me following the announcement that I had been appointed to the Armed Forces Bill Committee! As a veteran myself, it is excellent to see your brilliant suggestions and messages of interest. I watched the Second Reading of the Bill on Monday. From across the House, there were many moving speeches from Members of Parliament who outlined the importance of the Bill. From next week, I will be engaging with local groups to make sure our Military community here in Broxtowe have their voices heard at the Committee Stage of this legislation.
Finally, please be aware that throughout Covid, I have been holding a number of virtual surgeries with residents in Broxtowe on a number of issues. You can arrange a call with me by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For now, stay safe