18 DEC 2016

Working hard to drive forward Dover & Deal's jobs revolution

Back in 2010, I pledged to do everything I could to bring more jobs to our area. And over the past six years we’ve had a jobs revolution. Unemployment in Dover and Deal has fallen 41% and youth unemployment has almost halved.

I'm passionate about getting people into work. For young people, apprenticeships are a fantastic way of getting on the jobs ladder. Not everyone has to go to university to do well in life.

But what about adults – either in or out of work – who are desperate to do something different? There are hundreds, if not thousands, of people in Dover and Deal who would love to learn new skills and get a trade for life.

That’s why I’m pressing the Government to give more funding to further education colleges throughout the land. Post-Brexit, we need to build a Britain which leads the world in science and technology. Where we train people to drive the digital economy forward.

And at East Kent College’s Dover campus, as well as in Sandwich, forward-thinking Principal Graham Razey is doing just that. He showed me round the amazing facilities they have at Discovery Park. Good teaching of subjects like science, technology, engineering and maths is vital for the future of the UK economy.

In Dover and Deal everyone knows that over the next decade we must upgrade our border technology. This means youngsters should have the choice at school to learn the skills needed to man state-of-the-art border controls. Yet adults excited by the idea of a new career must have these opportunities too. That’s why we must have lifelong learning.

My view is this. It doesn’t matter how old you are, or where you come from – if you want to learn new skills then you must be given the chance. There must be ladders throughout life for everyone.

The most important thing is choice. I back the Government's bid to build new grammar schools. But I believe Ministers should also look at having more faith schools and more skills education at every stage of life. Parents in Dover, Deal and Kent as a whole see grammar schools and faith-based schools like St Edmund’s as engines of opportunity and aspiration. Yet we need skills for late developers and people re-training too.

Dover has two brilliant grammar schools. In recent years pupils at Dover Grammar School for Girls have even got better results than students at Eton.

But exams are not the be all and end all. It is also vital students are given the best possible life chances by having the choice to learn skills like plumbing, carpentry and electronics at every stage of life.

So, to keep driving forward Dover and Deal’s jobs revolution through the digital age, we must keep finding new ways of training people to work in a fast-moving market. That means more choice at school – and more opportunities for adults to learn new skills throughout their lives.

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Charlie Elphicke

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