Gordon has met and sat down with half a dozen young local Apprentices who are all pioneers on an innovative new scheme to support and mentor 11- 16 year olds in the town’s schools.

They are part of Blackpool Council’s HeadStart project, a Big Lottery funded multi-agency programme building resilience for those young people across Blackpool. In 2016, The Big Lottery Fund awarded Blackpool Council £10 million to support them in these areas over the next 5 years.

He chatted to them for nearly an hour about the projects they are involved with and their impressions and feedback from their work, which will deliver them a mix of Level 2 and Level 3 qualifications covering variously Children and social work as well as digital, creative and business admin skills. This includes an easy to read “Resilience Framework” which they have created to give young people practical ways about how they can make improvements to their everyday lives, including making them more effective learners and communicators. Video and online resources including some with the 11-16 year olds as presenters, via YouTube and other social media, are among the other materials the Apprentices have produced.

Gordon said: “It was really stimulating to have the time and opportunity to talk about their work, the satisfaction they were getting out of it, but also about the nature of learning and the sort of qualities their Apprenticeships were developing in them to the benefit of their future careers. It was great at the end of an action packed National Apprenticeship Week where I met Apprentices covering areas as diverse as catering, brewing, renewables and nuclear energy, as well as giving a keynote speech at the Semta Skills Awards and highlighting the benefits across the engineering sector, to see such promise and enthusiasm from other young Apprentices here in Blackpool.’

“We all know the challenges for young people here to develop their skills and self- confidence, particularly in parts of the town that can be very transient, with high levels of deprivation, often in poor housing conditions and sometimes unsettled family backgrounds. This can sometimes be a challenging and unsettling environment for young people to grow up in.

“This Headstart Apprenticeship programme offers a potential double benefit – giving the Apprentices themselves a varied and creative programme to qualify in, while helping empower hundreds of young people in Blackpool’s schools, both in a group but also a one- to- one basis, with life skills for their future prospects and careers, and in conjunction with input from local charities such as MIND.

“I stressed to the Apprentices and the Headstart administrator from the Council that it was crucial this five year programme laid down firm principles and transferable skills and materials that can leave a lasting legacy for schools and organisations to carry on after the funding is finished. I’ll do what I can to continue encouraging young people like these to make a success of Headstart.”

Josh Thompson, one of the HeadStart apprentices said: “It was a fantastic experience to be able to meet our local MP and to generally care about and discuss what we were doing the context of National Apprenticeship Week. Something I shall never forget!”

James Woolaston, HeadStart’s Digital Apprentice added: “I am absolutely thrilled to be given this opportunity. For my own personal development I believe it has allowed me to grow as a young professional, and I look forward to us all building this resilience revolution in Blackpool together.”

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