Damian writes a regular column for the Petersfield Post, and below is the latest one:
"One of the great privileges of being Education Secretary is that I’m able to use a beautiful set of mahogany furniture in the office, made by the Edward Barnsley Workshop, based here in East Hampshire.
Commissioned in 1960 by the then Minister of Education, David Eccles, the suite was handmade by their team of expert craftsmen, and I was delighted to welcome designer/manager, James Ryan, and four other members of staff to the Department for Education this week, to celebrate the brilliant work done by the workshop.
Son of a furniture maker, Edward Barnsley attended Bedales School, before training with Geoffrey Lupton in Froxfield and later taking over his workshop in 1923. And after a distinguished career, his legacy continues today through the support of the educational trust set up in his name, ensuring his knowledge and skills are still being passed on to today’s generation of craftsmen.
As this week is National Apprenticeship Week - and all of the furniture makers at the workshop complete a unique Barnsley Furniture Making Apprenticeship - the visit also gave us the opportunity to highlight the positive impact that apprenticeships have on individuals, businesses, local communities and the wider economy.
Now in its eleventh year, National Apprenticeship Week shines a light on the wide range of opportunities on offer for people to earn and learn, and celebrates the contribution made by apprentices up and down the country.
Although still associated particularly with young people, apprenticeships in England are open to anyone over the age of 16 and not in full time education. That means that someone in their teens, 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s or beyond can take on an apprenticeship and learn new skills while working.
Less well-known is the fact that employers can offer apprenticeships to existing staff, which is often a great way to build skills within the company without the need to recruit from outside.
And for those who would like to pursue a higher level of academic study, there are also degree apprenticeships, during which people combine work with regular time at an appropriate university or college.
Edward Barnsley is just one local company that offers apprenticeships – taking on two or three each year - but there are others, and extra support and guidance is available through the apprenticeship scheme offered by East Hampshire District Council.
With record employment levels – and a record number of vacancies – we need to ensure we have a workforce with the necessary skills to benefit from these opportunities and to help secure our longer term economic growth.
I would encourage anyone who is looking for work, considering a change of job, or in employment but keen to develop new skills, to consider the value that an apprenticeship can offer."
Written by Damian Hinds, and published in The Petersfield Post, 7th March 2018