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Prime Minster launches regional apprenticeship scheme at BT’s Adastral Park


The Prime Minister, Rt Hon Gordon Brown MP, today launched a local apprenticeship scheme designed to give young people a step up the career ladder, during a visit to BT Adastral Park in Martlesham Heath, Suffolk.

Launched during National Apprenticeship Week, the Federated Apprenticeship Scheme will offer young adults employed by small medium enterprises (SMEs) in the East of England, the chance to achieve a qualification in the broad area of information communication technology (ICT).
Innovation for the Digital Economic Age (IDEA), a new organisation formed to collaborate on learning and skills development in the Eastern region, is made up of Suffolk New College, the University of East Anglia, the University of Essex, University Campus Suffolk, University College London and BT, and is making available 30 apprenticeship places for the new Federated Apprenticeship Course. The intention is to carry out a trial phase of the scheme in the 09/10 academic year with Suffolk New College.

The apprentices will benefit from acquiring a wide range of business-relevant ICT skills, as well as improving their potential employability. The scheme will be open to apprentices aged 19+ from a broad range of small businesses that use information technology (IT) to differentiate their business, use IT to help run their business and that help and advise other SMEs on the use of IT systems within or for their respective business.

The Prime Minister, Rt Hon Gordon Brown MP said: “Apprenticeships bring so many benefits to everyone involved: they are an effective way for businesses to obtain the right skills to get them through the economic downturn, and offer a hand-picked, motivated workforce. But they are also a way for keen and hard working young people to develop their skills and experience, in a work place environment, which will prepare and equip them for a fulfilling career.

“This scheme shows how companies working together with government can find solutions to their skills needs and develop real opportunities for young people around them. By working together, we can make ourselves both more resilient to the downturn, and ensure we are ahead of the game when the upturn comes.”

Sir Michael Rake, BT’s chairman and also chairman of the UK Commission for Employment and Skills said: “in these uncertain times it is crucial that companies and their employees absolutely maximise their respective potential and this scheme is designed to help both achieve just that. Young people have a great deal to offer the economy and BT is wholly committed to equipping apprentices with the necessary tools to thrive in the innovation age”.

Pat Hughes, Education Strategy & Engagement at BT said “technology offers small businesses enormous opportunities to increase their competitiveness and potentially cut down on costs and improve ways of working. This scheme will enable apprentices to take those skills back to the workplace, and that can potentially bring enormous benefits to small business - at a time when they really need it”.

The launch took place during The Prime Minister’s visit to Suffolk to launch the Real Help Now campaign. The document outlines the support available for people and business during the downturn from a series of national and regional partners. He was accompanied by Regional Minister Barbara Follett.

Notes for Editors’:
Formation of IDEA

In the Eastern region many SMEs have yet to exploit the benefits that ICT can bring to their business. Recent research suggests that only 58% of businesses are confident that their staff have the knowledge to develop the ICT capabilities their business requires and that scarcity of appropriately skilled personnel may be a serious threat to the region’s businesses and economy. Significant growth in the number of skilled people who understand how digital technologies can be applied most effectively to improve customer service, business productivity and business efficiency, is needed

To help address these issues a new organisation has been formed to collaborate on learning and skills development in the Eastern region

The organisation is Innovation for the Digital Economic Age (IDEA) and is formed of the following partners; Suffolk New College, the University of East Anglia, the University of Essex, University Campus Suffolk, University College London and BT. BT will provide industry insight to the academic partners, tapping into its world-leading research and innovation capability

The objectives of IDEA are to:
• Promote education and help expand knowledge and skills in ICT
• Develop and promote professional training in ICT
• Develop and promote a framework in which workplace learning and development builds towards a recognised academic accreditation or qualification in the ICT sector
• Develop and promote courses and training aimed at companies and individuals integrating face-to-face learning with innovative ‘employer friendly’ approaches to delivery and blended learning
• Develop and establish a network academic and other institutions in the field of ICT learning and skills the first such institution being set up in the East of England at BT Adastral Park as part of InnovationMartlesham
• Identify and assess the training needs of ICT professionals at various levels and stages in their development.

Federated Apprenticeship Scheme

• IDEA, supported by funding from the Regional Learning & Skills Council (LSC), are developing a trial of the Federated Apprenticeship Scheme to offer young adults employed by SMEs the opportunity to access an enhanced qualification framework in the broad area of ICT

Adastral Park

BT Adastral Park in Martlesham Heath, Suffolk has a 40-year history of innovation in ICT.

Pioneering research and development is undertaken at the site. Fibre optic cables and the first digital telephone exchanges were developed here.

In 1999 the centre was relaunched as Adastral Park and other companies started to join BT in an exciting environment for business, education and skills.

The site supports around 4,000 jobs and brings more than £800 million into the local economy each year.
BT is committed to helping develop skills in the expanding discipline of ICT in the region to sustain the growth of ICT companies.

In 2008 InnovationMartlesham was launched as a joint initiative between BT and the East of England Development Agency (EEDA) to encourage ICT businesses to set up at Adastral Park. Ten companies are now resident. One of the first was Debug Design, a creative company providing digital graphic solutions for print and the web. The latest is Cognizant, a technology solutions company.

Adastral Park is an ideal location for these businesses as it offers a secure campus with the advantage of the on-site facilities of one of the leading centres of technical innovation in the communication world

To further this opportunity, BT has engaged leading planners and urban designers to help develop a sustainable masterplan vision for the future of the site. This will create new jobs and develop new homes in a unique sustainable fashion – a commercial and residential development combined with green spaces, education, leisure and a full mix of different land uses
The plan supports some 2,000 new jobs alongside up to 2,000 high quality new homes. If approved, the proposals would take approximately 10-15 years to develop. It is a large scale undertaking and would be phased to ensure that new development was brought forward in step with demand

BT & apprenticeships

BT understands that apprenticeships make business sense and continues to work with supply chain partners and customers to help them realise how apprenticeships can help their businesses

BT has 1150 apprentices, which will grow to 1230 by September 2009. 8,000 applications were received for 350 jobs this year

In partnership with training provider, Accenture Learning, the range of apprenticeship frameworks on offer has been expanded from four to 11 over the past year.


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