A REDCAR apprentice is helping to shape the future of UK apprenticeships after a meeting with the Minister of State at the Department for Education in Westminster to discuss his experiences since leaving college.

Connor Darby, 22, from Boosbeck near Redcar, is an apprentice production engineer at Teesside-based automotive parts manufacturer ElringKlinger (GB), and was given the opportunity to attend the visit as part of his role as a North East Young Apprentice Ambassador.

Along with four other representatives from the North East and North West, Connor met with Robert Halfon MP, Minister of State at the Department for Education, to discuss their experiences as apprentices and how they felt apprenticeships could be improved across the UK.

They also spoke about their roles as Young Apprentice Ambassadors and how they can help the Government to achieve its goals of increasing the quality and quantity of apprenticeships, with the aim of having three million in place by 2020.

Connor, who is studying his five-year apprenticeship through the Northern Skills Group STEM Centre, said: “Having always enjoyed maths and science at school, engineering seemed like a natural fit for me. I was looking for a career rather than just a job and my apprenticeship at ElringKlinger offered me exactly that.

“I am very passionate about my role as a North East Young Apprentice Ambassador and I am grateful to ElringKlinger for giving me the opportunity to play such an important part in developing the future of apprenticeships. When I was at college I didn’t feel there was enough advice for those of us who did not want to go down the traditional university route or around the opportunities available through apprenticeships. The ambassador network allows young people to benefit from the advice that I never had and I’m privileged to be able to help in any way that I can.

“It was a great experience to visit Westminster, meet Robert Halfon MP and discuss the future of apprenticeships both in the North East and nationwide. Following the meeting we were also given a tour of the House of Commons and had the chance to sit in the viewing gallery.”

As a North East Young Apprentice Ambassador, Connor is responsible for helping to promote apprenticeships across the Tees Valley, often taking time away from the ElringKlinger shopfloor to visit schools and colleges to share his experiences and the opportunities available to young people outside of the traditional university route.

ElringKlinger (GB) has a long-running commitment to engineering the workforce of tomorrow and currently employs 27 apprentices. The company also has close links with local education providers, including Teesside University and Middlesbrough College.

Ian Malcolm, managing director at ElringKlinger (GB), said: “Connor and his fellow apprentice ambassadors do a fantastic job and it’s brilliant to see them involved in discussions around the future of apprenticeships.

“In the automotive sector the skills gap continues to be a real issue but through our support of the North East Young Apprentice Ambassador Network, and with currently almost 10 percent of our workforce being apprentices, we are proud to be doing our bit to help encourage more people into the industry.”