The other week began with the Apprenticeship AGM in Westminster. I started the group three years ago, as apprenticeships are an issue close to my heart, but not with as many people as there are now. When I first started the group, we had only 10 people in attendance and this meeting, some years on, saw the room full of more than 120 MPs and organisations associated with apprentices. Thankfully there has been a change in attitude towards apprentices and we now have 4,325 apprentices in Burnley.
On the Tuesday, I was invited to join my colleague Julian Huppert in Cambridge for a visit to Cambridge Regional College where the apprentices are being trained with the backing of city employers. During the visit I met apprentice engineers and chefs who were preparing lunch for the visit and other apprentices and their employers who had taken part in the Celebrating Apprenticeships initiative. Cambridge Regional College now has almost 5,000 apprentices, and has seen a huge increase in numbers in recent years. They provide superb training for students to give them the necessary skills for employment and are extremely beneficial for employers, too. Many businesses now, rightly see an apprentice as an essential part of their work force.
I was then back to London to go to the Russian embassy. As many of you will have read, I was asked by a local veteran of the Russian convoys from Padiham to collect his medal from the Russian Embassy in London.
Jim Bates was the proud recipient of the Ushakov Medal and once I had brought it back from London I was able to present this to him in my office. I am very proud of the service of this incredible man who served during the war aboard HMS Wilton and is now president of Burnley and Padiham Royal British Legion.
I was back in Burnley busy in the constituency. I met pupils from Sir John Thursby Community College who were joining me for work experience.
I was delighted to go to the Nazareth Unitarian Chapel, Padiham, to see the introduction of new priest Barry Brown, who will be fantastic in his role.