Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 14.22.28North East Chamber of Commerce (NECC) President Mike Matthews MBE has wasted no time in using his new  NECC post to raise awareness of something he is passionate about – apprenticeships.

The Managing Director of Nifco UK met with students of Unity City Academy, Middlesbrough to celebrate NECC’s ‘Apprentice Greats’ – a book of 200 leaders who began their career as apprentices, including Mr Matthews.

The book, sponsored by Middlesbrough College and Gateshead College was launched by the region’s largest business membership organisation as part of NECC’s 200th year anniversary and aims to show the region’s future workforce an alternative to further education and the benefits of apprenticeships.

“The book is proof that if you get the right opportunity, work hard and strive to reach your ultimate potential, you will have a successful career,” said Mr Matthews. “We need to make sure young people, and their parents, are aware of all the options available to them.

“NECC is one of the largest independent training providers in the North East and we believe apprenticeships are a vital way of introducing young people into business. If we are to continue supporting businesses within our region we must make sure young people have access to skills and development.

“There is a common misconception placed upon Apprenticeships and our biggest challenge is engaging with employers to recognise their value and reminding them of the potential available within our region. The 200 ‘Apprentice Greats’ are leaders of business and this book really demonstrates the calibre of people in the North East.”

Middlesbrough College and Unity City Academy work closely to ensure a seamless transition for young people moving between school and college, and the Apprentice Greats book will now be being used by the careers team in Unity City Academy, as well as other secondary schools across the region.

Unity City Academy Principal, Neil Powell said: “We work with our students and parents to personalise their learning experience to allow our young people to play a major role in their own futures. The Apprentice Greats book demonstrates realistic achievements.

“It’s important our pupils know what opportunities are out there and from Year 7 we invite employers to speak at assemblies, linking the world of work to education. During our parents evenings we discuss a variety of options and we have certainly noticed a change in opinion towards apprenticeships.

“We aim to ensure our students are able to become an active part in the development and regeneration of Middlesbrough and they will take their place in Middlesbrough and beyond as leaders of their generation, people of integrity, commitment and compassion.”

Co-sponsors of the ‘Apprentice Greats‘ book, Middlesbrough College,  recently opened a £20 million STEM  (Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths) Centre of Excellence, providing students with the  opportunity to train and develop new skills desired by local employers.

Zoe Lewis, Principal and Chief Executive, said: “We have seen our apprenticeship provision grow significantly in the last few years and we are now working with over 1000 employers in the region supporting them with high quality apprentices, who become a valuable asset to their businesses.

“Apprenticeships are a great way of young people being able to train and become work-ready through ‘on the job’ training and therefore Middlesbrough College is delighted to be supporting the NECC Apprentice Greats book which profiles and celebrates 200 of the North East’s most successful leaders who started out their working life as an apprentice.”

An online version of the Apprenticeship Greats book can be found at http://t.co/TZ49WKhGGp