Prime Minister David Cameron this afternoon visited Wolverhampton – and issued a rallying call for apprentices to kickstart economic recovery.
He was at landmark construction business Carillion in the city centre to meet apprentices and take questions from staff. The number of apprentices in the West Midlands has doubled in the past three years.
Mr Cameron has predicted the West Midlands can become the region’s skill centre – and insists apprenticeships will play a key part in this. He wants a return to the days when the region was the ‘workshop of the world’ and ‘put Britain on the map’.
The visit was part of the Government’s drive to promote apprenticeships as an alternative to studying at university.
Mr Cameron arrived at 12.20pm and first met teenage apprentices from the Birch Street-based firm to ask about their experiences at the company.
He then took a question and answer session from 180 staff at the company’s headquarters in Birch Street.
Wolverhampton South West MP Paul Uppal was among the packed audience who greeted his arrival.
Mr Cameron drew laughs from the audience when he complained that it was too hot in the room. He spoke of the firm’s importance in the region’s industry and congratulated workers on major projects it has been involved in.
He said: “You’re doing some great work here. We need to build better infrastructure in this country and you’re helping with the Smart Motorway Scheme.”
The Prime Minister said businesses – small and large – need to ‘get into schools and tell children what they do’.
He said: “It’s very inspiring what you’re doing – the hospitals you’re building and the schools you’re building – it’s inspiring.”
He added: “The fact is Britain is lagging behind on infrastructure. Our railways are too out of date, our motorways are too full.
“We need everyone to get behind HS2. It’s about capacity – our West Coast Mainline is full. Do we build a new old style rail line, or one of these newfangled high speed ones like they’re building in China?
“It will link eight of the 10 biggest cities in the country - it’s an absolutely vital programme and I hope Labour will see sense.”
The visit comes as work moves forward on the new £500m Jaguar Land Rover engine plant at the i54 business park near Wolverhampton.