Thetford firm’s apprentice school dream set to take centre stage

Richard Bridgman with the successful Warren Services apprentices. From back left; Nathan Cubley, Ki

Richard Bridgman with the successful Warren Services apprentices. From back left; Nathan Cubley, Kieran Stewart,Nathan Sismey, Warren Services chairman Richard Bridgman, Joe Farrell, Ethen Sieley, Preston Sharpe.Front row Alfie Edwards (left) and Jake Williams - Credit: Archant

A Norfolk businessman's dream of starting an apprentice school is within touching distance of becoming a reality, after he unveiled plans to open next September.

Richard Bridgman, chairman of Thetford-based engineering firm Warren Services has been working with officials at Semta, the Sector Skills Council for the Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering Sectors, to develop the apprentice school as part of a bid to boost skills in the town and surrounding area.

Plans are now at an advanced stage after the firm, which employs about 90 staff and has a £6m-a-year turnover, bought the former Uniglaze factory in the town earlier this year, with the apprentice school set to be housed in part of the building.

The firm is also seeking support from other businesses, and has already received expressions of interest from other firms, while it is also keen to tap into funding to help get the project off the ground.

Mr Bridgman said: 'We are going to start the apprentice school come what may, and it's going to open in September 2014. It is going to be called the Bridge Training Centre and we are setting up a Community Interest Company. Because it is on a hill we are hoping to get a bridge which takes you in.'

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The news comes as Warren Services took centre stage during Robbie Williams Take The Crown tour, after securing a six figure deal with stage designers Brilliant Stages to supply trucks and structures on which were mounted seven iconic sculptures of Robbie Williams' head, including some which were over seven metres high.

Staff worked round the clock on the project - the biggest of its kind for the firm, which has previously designed equipment for groups such as Take That.

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And it comes as the company has also signed up to the government's GrowthAccelerator programme, teaming up with mentors at Norfolk-based training provider Turning Factor to develop a growth plan for the next five years and beyond.

He added: 'We are also working with GrowthAccelerator, who have looked at our business plan and set up training for 10 of our managers. I poo-poohed it at first, but I see it as a fantastic opportunity for all small and medium sized businesses. Our business has changed. We have got people now doing everything, from fabrication to hydraulics. But although our business has grown, the management structure hasn't grown with it, and we are looking at our strategy for the next five to 10 years.'

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