Newly elected County Durham MP Paul Howell has offered to support businesses in any way he can – as he returned to an engineering training provider he last visited 45 years ago.

The last time Sedgefield’s new MP was at South West Durham Training in Newton Aycliffe was in 1975. The then 16-year-old, choosing his post school options, could never have imagined he would one day return as the local Member of Parliament.

Mr Howell ended up training as an accountant and enjoyed a long career at companies including Darchem, Perstorp-Warerite, Blue Circle and Wilsonart before his election last December.

Speaking at South West Durham Training’s annual Business Breakfast event, the MP said he had an open door and wanted to help companies of all sizes – using his access to Ministers to make them aware of issues business wished to raise.

Mr Howell said: “The unique way the House of Commons works means that when you are in the voting lobby, everyone from your side is there – and I mean everyone.

“Yesterday morning I had a well known multinational company approach me about some concerns they had and in the afternoon I was able to raise this with Liz Truss (Secretary of State for International Trade). If I can help any business in any way, I will – just get in touch.”

Andy Dunn, General Manager for Stockton-based car parts manufacturer Nifco, outlined the firm’s apprenticeship recruitment strategy during a presentation to delegates, stressing the importance of enthusiasm and a strong work ethic above academic aptitude.

Former Procter & Gamble executive Laura Graham then told how she has built a highly successful day nursery from scratch in two years and is now expanding the premises at Whitehouse Farm near Morpeth, Northumberland.

The event coincided with National Careers Week, a nationwide celebration of careers guidance supporting young people from education into employment.

Hollie Statham, from civil engineering firm Bowmer and Kirkland, and Tom Gallon, from the North East LEP, also presented employability skills sessions to Bishop Auckland College students as part of the national campaign’s activities.

Stuart Johnson, CEO of South West Durham Training, said the Business Breakfast had been a huge success: “We had a great range of speakers, from our new local MP offering support to businesses, to a major regional employer outlining what they look for in a new apprentice, to an entrepreneur who has swapped corporate life for an exciting journey building her own small business.

“We are very grateful to both the speakers and all the representatives of local businesses who attended to support the event.”

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Stuart Johnson, CEO of South West Durham Training, is pictured with Paul Howell MP.