Thetford businessman tears up training school blueprint amid red tape frustrations

Richard Bridgman, Chairman of Warren Services in Thetford. Photograph Simon Parker

Richard Bridgman, Chairman of Warren Services in Thetford. Photograph Simon Parker - Credit: Archant

Businessman Richard Bridgman has torn up his pioneering plans for a training centre aimed at helping youngsters in Thetford and beyond to secure vital engineering skills after becoming disillusioned with the red tape involved.

Mr Bridgman, chairman of Warren Services, had been working with officials at Semta, the Sector Skills Council for the Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering Sectors, to develop the Bridge Training Centre and was hoping to take in students next September.

But after sinking more than £50,000 into the project and, until now, employing an executive principal to lead it, he feared the scheme would prove too big a drain on his business following delays caused in dealing with officials at both national and local government level to get the project off the ground.

He said he dropped the plans following a meeting with skills minister Matthew Hancock in Birmingham last Thursday.

'The major reason is that the political will from the government is not there,' he said. 'The government is obsessed with putting major training funding into the larger companies such as BAE Systems, Rolls Royce, Jaguar, Land Rover but not SME's like Warren Services.

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'I am frustrated and angry as I have put so much effort into this over the years, but sometimes you have to go with your gut.

'There were too many 'ifs and buts' and I felt it was having, or could have, a serious impact on Warren both in my time and taking further resources from our holding company. I am still very positive that advanced apprenticeships are the way forward and as a company we are committed to 5pc of our growing company will be apprentices. We will have to use the normal college route, but they must lift their game and find a way to engage with the SMEs,

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Employment minister Esther McVey, who was in Norwich yesterday, said: 'What we have got to see is that young people are put in the right environment and that quality is there and jobs are there. There is an element of red tape to govern that they are in the best possible environment.'

'In the last year half a million apprenticeships have been created and they are growing at a tremendous rate. However, we have got to make sure every kid who has an apprenticeship has a very high quality one.'

Andy Wood, chairman of the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, who is set to unveil a new skills strategy aimed at young people at the Lep's Next Generation conference in Ipswich on November 28, said: 'It is a great shame that Richard has dropped his plans for the Bridge Training Centre. Richard has been a resolute supporter of apprenticeships and young people in Norfolk'.

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