Orpington MP marks the culmination of National Apprenticeship Week

As the curtains draw on National Apprenticeship Week 2024, Gareth Bacon MP attended a special event at London South East Colleges’ Orpington campus.

A ‘Find an Apprentice’ session was attended by over 50 prospective apprentices and local employers to fill vacancies and help young people start their career journeys.

Students took part in a CV and interview skills workshop first, receiving helpful hints and tips for job seeking. ‘Speed interview’ sessions then took place, allowing the young people to meet directly with employers from various industries.

MP for Orpington, Gareth Bacon, then took part in a roundtable discussion with a group of students about their experiences and hopes for the future. This included questions about why they are considering an apprenticeship, what information they had access to and anything they think the government needs to change regarding the apprenticeship system.

Gareth Bacon MP said:

“This event demonstrated that National Apprenticeship Week is crucial to showcase the breadth of career choices young people can make to earn while they learn. With a high demand for vocational and technical skills in today’s job market, it’s an exciting time to study as an apprentice.

"I enjoyed speaking with learners about their future ambitions, as well as hearing from employers about their experiences of the programme. London South East Colleges’ work to connect students to businesses through real-life career development is hugely commendable. I am grateful to Sam Parrett and her team, and will continue working with stakeholders to improve young people’s prospects in Orpington.”

Opening the event, Dr Sam Parrett CBE, Group Principal and CEO of London South East Colleges, said:

This event marks the last day of National Apprenticeships Week 2024, during which we have run many activities to promote and raise awareness of this fantastic route into work.

“Apprenticeships are beneficial to both learners and employers. They are a great way for young people to gain a qualification, whilst earning a wage and getting vital work experience. And for employers, young people bring huge value to them with a fresh approach and enthusiasm – as well as providing the essential skills that are needed to grow and future-proof businesses.

“We are delighted that Gareth has joined us for our unique ‘Find an Apprentice’ event. The fantastic turnout reflects the support and commitment of local employers to engage with us and our learners, a true collaboration with the shared aim of getting people into great training and jobs.

“It was great to give students the opportunity to speak to Gareth directly about their experiences and views. Hopefully, their thoughts will help influence wider policy to improve the future system for all.”

Following Gareth’s visit, a further event took place in the afternoon – the FE Skills Exchange Launch.

This initiative, led by LSEC, aims to meet skills gaps in the FE sector via collaborative teaching and partnerships with employers. It focuses on utilising the expertise of employees across a range of sectors – ensuring that learners can access guidance and knowledge from industry experts.

Over 40 employers attended the launch, including some who had attended the morning’s activities. They were given an overview of the project by Deputy Principal Neil Coates, followed by roundtable discussions. These gave guests the opportunity to highlight their skills concerns and talk about ways they could support the Exchange.

Neil Coates said:

“As a college, we are committed to ensuring our learners get the best possible teaching and training – to ensure they have the right skills to access jobs and meet employers’ needs.

“The FE Skills Exchange will enable us to draw on the huge amount of expertise within the industry, which will help bridge skills gaps. Working in partnership with employers is our priority, as it is key to securing great jobs for our learners.

“Today’s activities bring this exciting week to an end. We have been delighted to bring together so many different people, including learners, visionary employers, and community leaders – not only to celebrate the success of apprenticeships but to lay the groundwork for many exciting future opportunities. Thank you to everyone involved. Together, we can have a much greater impact.”

If you are an employer and are interested in getting involved in the FE Skills Exchange, please email

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