The deputy prime minister says other town’s should use Eastbourne as a blueprint of how to successfully create job opportunities for young people.
Nick Clegg was in Eastbourne to meet local apprentices at the Langham Hotel after hearing how a town-wide campaign to find 100 apprenticeship slots in 100 days had exceeded all expectations and found 181 placements.
Arriving fresh from a grilling with students at Chailey School on the outskirts of nearby Lewes, the Lib Dem leader was in a buoyant mood as he saw first-hand the work being done by local apprentices, including some who were cooking up a storm in the hotel kitchen.
Speaking during his visit, Mr Clegg said, “What is being done here in Eastbourne is fantastic.
“Apprenticeships are key to ensuring young people have the skills and experience to get jobs and help the local economy grow.
“Stephen Lloyd is doing excellent work, together with local businesses and the wider community, in ensuring Eastbourne’s young people can get apprenticeships and have the tools to build prosperous careers.
“To hear that the Herald has done its bit is great. It is the perfect example of the community coming together to make things happen.
“One of the big problems is getting the message about apprenticeships and their benefits out to people.
“A lot of small firms think it is just for the bigger companies.
“We need to make sure that small firms know that taking on an apprentice is worthwhile.”
Mr Clegg met Melanie Hunt, head of Sussex Downs College, which has been instrumental to the apprenticeship scheme, and Andrew Coy, manager of the Langham Hotel.
Ms Hunt said, “It was great that the deputy prime minister could visit Eastbourne to see the programme working first-hand.
“The apprenticeship scheme works. An incredible 91 per cent of our hospitality apprentices achieve their qualifications and move into a job after they’ve completed their training.”
As well as sampling some of the students’ work, Mr Clegg presented one of the apprentices, Faye Chillingworth, with her latest certificate.
While most of the talk was about apprenticeships and the rising cost of continuing in education, Mr Clegg did find time to comment on local NHS and apparent plans to move key departments away from the DGH.
Asked what he thought of local concerns, he said, “We [the Government] should not preside over local decisions.
“That is what has gone wrong with the NHS. It has to be to be representative of local needs and I understand local anxieties over health provisions here.
“It is important the voice of local people figures in NHS decisions.”
During what was a fairly whistle-stop visit, Mr Clegg heaped praise on Eastbourne’s MP, describing how impressive he found Mr Lloyd’s ‘gusto’.
He said he hoped the dip in his party’s national popularity would not dissuade locals from backing Mr Lloyd the next time voters go to the polls.
Mr Lloyd was pleased his party’s leader had taken time out of his busy schedule to come to Eastbourne and said it showed what a good job was being done locally.
“It is tremendous that the Government have been so impressed with our apprenticeship initiative,” he said.
“And to have the deputy prime minister visit Eastbourne really was the icing on the cake.”