'Never give up trying to win an apprenticeship'
BRISTOL'S aero engineers of the future who were paid a visit by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg had a simple message for students who want to win an apprenticeship: Never give up trying.
Jonathan Rees, 20, who lives in Ashley Down, is one of nearly 30 first year GKN apprentices on a three-year aero engineering course at the City of Bristol College.
He managed to win an apprenticeship out of more than 500 hopefuls who applied.
"It just comes down to sheer persistence," said Jonathan. "I do realise how lucky I am to be on this course.
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"It's such a massive firm, I think I will have loads of opportunities in the years ahead."
Tom Cochrane, 18, from Kingswood, said: "A lot of my friends are going to university next year but I just wanted to get an apprenticeship because I like engineering."
Luke Healey, 17, from Kingswood, said: "There was a lot of competition to get on the course – I realise how these kind of apprenticeships are sought after and it just makes me more determined to try harder."
David Iles, 16, from Nailsea, showed Liberal Democrat party leader Mr Clegg how to use a tap and die to make a threaded hole in a block of steel.
He has only been on the course a few weeks but next year he will be learning how to use a £100,000 computerised tooling machine which is the size of an average kitchen.
After students draw from scratch the item they want to make, they programme the computer so it selects the right tools to automatically cut, shape and drill the finished article.
Steven Castle, 17, from Staple Hill who was using the machine, went straight onto the GKN apprenticeship course after gaining the equivalent of 14 GCSEs at Downend School. He also took a diploma in engineering. He said: "I'm a hands-on type person, so I wanted to get stuck in straight away on an apprenticeship. I didn't think I would be motivated to stay on to do my A-levels and I was inspired by other members of my family who have won apprenticeships themselves."
Mr Clegg, who was visiting Bristol to support Dr Jon Rogers, the Lib Dem mayoral candidate, said the Coalition Government had expanded the number of apprenticeships by hundreds of thousands since taking office.
He said it was not just the big firms such as GKN and Airbus that were so vital in providing apprenticeships but much smaller firms which could perhaps only take on one, two or a small handful of young recruits.
He praised the college for introducing a new scheme to encourage smaller firms to take on apprentices.
The college promises to take on all the paperwork for every apprentice who is signed up.
Mr Clegg said in a series of interviews with journalists during his visit that the City Deal, between Government and Bristol, was a massive sea change in local politics which would give direct power on deciding how to its own spend money generated from business rates.
Some of this money will fund the introduction of the Bristol Metro – a network of local rail routes including the opening of the Henbury Loop line and several rail stations.
Dr Rogers has said that if he is elected as the new mayor, then he would want to sort out Bristol's transport problems by setting up an independent transport authority.
Mr Clegg was pressed on this point by the Post and asked if he would support Dr Rogers with setting up an ITA. Mr Clegg responded by saying he was not "ideologically opposed" to one.
But he said that great strides had already been made in improving transport in Bristol and pointed once more to the effect of the City Deal.
Mr Clegg said than an elected mayor would give Bristol much more freedom and discretion to decide how money is spent on major projects.
He said if Dr Rogers was elected the new mayor, then unlike the Labour mayoral candidate, he would have a direct hotline to Whitehall to consult and negotiate with ministers and senior civil servants.
"Actions speak louder than words and we have gone further and faster than any government in living memory to give the people of Bristol and elected politicians a greater say in the running of the city," said Mr Clegg. "I am not ideologically opposed at all to the idea of a transport authority in the same way that London has.
"But I'm saying we should use the powers that the Government has given to Bristol and then make sure we build from there."