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Ministers back space apprentices as key to South East's digital future

24 February 2009

South East Minister Jonathan Shaw MP and Schools Minister Sarah McCarthy-Fry MP marked the start of National Apprentices Week by meeting 40 apprentices at Portsmouth-based satellite and space services company Astrium.

During the visit, the Ministers presented Daniel Blake, 27, from Portsmouth with the award of Astrium Apprentice of the Year and Ian Brighton, who has been with the company for more than 40 years, with the Astrium Award for Longest Serving Former Apprentice.

The visit to Astrium’s hi-tech manufacturing operations followed a Cabinet meeting in Southampton which saw the launch of Government plans to create 20,000 new apprenticeships nationwide. Ministers also published details of 'Real Help Now in the South East', a document outlining what help is available to families and businesses in the region and where to find that help.

Jonathan Shaw said: "Thanks in part to £12million funding from the South East England Development Agency, Astrium has created 450 new jobs over the past 12 months and made a substantial investment in its future workforce through its 40 advanced engineering apprenticeships and plans to take on 20 more apprentices in 2009. This illustrates the real help now that is available to companies across the South East.

"As part of this trip, I am delighted to visit a key regional company that is growing despite the current economic climate and pushing ahead with innovative developments in digital and satellite communications. Astrium proves that we in the UK can still be world-leaders in hi-tech engineering and science."

Sarah McCarthy-Fry said: "The UK still leads the world in specialist areas of hi-tech design and manufacturing. Astrium Portsmouth is a perfect example - having built a world-leading business in sophisticated electronics and systems for satellites. Its consistent and ongoing investment in new apprentices has helped ensure its success – providing young people with opportunities and a future in one of the major growth areas of the world."

SEEDA Board Member Alex Pratt added: "Astrium’s success is an example of the South East leading the way in hi-tech manufacturing and space technology. It is great to see Astrium also leading the way in developing apprentices to ensure the South East has home grown talent to guarantee skills for future prosperity and growth."

Astrium UK CEO Colin Paynter said: "We are committed to our apprentice and graduate trainee programmes as we know they help us secure our future. By encouraging people like Daniel, and offering them opportunities, we know they will continue to guarantee that we remain innovative and maintain our position as a leader in the global space industry. Britain’s space industry is a hidden jewel – often overlooked but worth £7 billion to the UK economy and supporting nearly 70,000 jobs."

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