You can read my lastest monthly column for the Witney Gazette, here:
Coming up to the end of my first year as your Member of Parliament, I have been kept extremely busy attending countless constituency events, visits, attending meetings and replying to all your letters and emails. I have had an extremely busy summer, travelling the constituency and trying to meet as many of you as possible. Parliament has now resumed for the Autumn, meaning I am back in Westminster, but will still be a very regular face around West Oxfordshire. I have greatly enjoyed the past 12 months as your MP – with a General Election in between – and look forward to getting back to Parliament this week to represent you all in the House of Commons.
Throughout the past year, I have been particularly impressed with the number of thriving businesses - large and small - we have here in West Oxfordshire. Launching this year's West Oxfordshire Business Awards recently (now open for nominations!) and through my work as Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Small and Micro Businesses, I am continually working with businesses to discuss how we can support them and help them to grow. I have met with nearly 150 businesses and charities, across the whole of our area, to understand and discuss what is working for them, what can be improved, and how we can continue to be an area of world-beating industry leaders and budding, innovative start-ups.
One fantastic success is the uptake of apprenticeships across West Oxfordshire. Since 2010, 4980 new apprenticeships have been taken up in our area, helping more young people get into work, learning skills on the job, whilst getting paid and being able to support themselves. At many of the local businesses I have visited, I am delighted to have met current apprentices, as well as those who have progressed and are now making their way up the ranks of the company.
University is certainly the right path for some, but not all, young people. Real life 'on the job' experience cannot be beaten, which is something the Government and I recognise and champion. When coupled with the introduction of technical T levels, designed to simplify the process of gaining vocational qualifications, there are great strides being made towards enabling more young people to access the careers they want.
The Government has gone one step further by launching Degree Apprenticeships in 2015. These are designed in partnership with employers, universities and professional bodies, combining a full degree with practical on the job skills, allowing apprentices to earn while they learn. Already, more than 2,000 people have started degree apprenticeships since they were introduced, and now the Government's launching 27 new projects to promote and increase awareness, as well as the number of degrees available. This is a great innovative policy, which promotes a wide-range of flexible ways for young people to gain skills and qualifications to get their career off to the best start.
With many more business visits and meetings in the diary, I look forward to discussing with apprentices how they enjoy the process, as well as any changes they think might need to be made. One great part about being an MP, is that if you let me know your concerns, I can relay them here in Parliament and hopefully slowly bring about necessary improvements. If you have any issue you wish to discuss with me – local, national or international – you can contact me either by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or my office by phone at 01993 225020.
Published on 11.10.17 in the Witney Gazette.