Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg was in the North East yesterday to visit firms given a jobs boost by Government money.
The Lib Dem leader was at CAV Aerospace, in Consett, County Durham, where £1.4m from the Regional Growth Fund (RGF) has helped to generate 78 jobs and safeguard another 105.
The company manufactures aircraft components such as ice protection systems and is coupling the RGF money with £8.2m of its own investment.
A £750,000 grant will also back up £3.2m investment by Greencroft Bottling, in Stanley, County Durham, in new production lines and IT systems.
Mr Clegg was also at Siemens, in Newcastle’s Byker, where he had a question-and-answer session with staff.
He used the visit to launch the Liberal Democrat campaign A Million Jobs For A Stronger Economy, which calls for businesses to double the number of apprentices to 200,000.
He said the Government needs to be “more ambitious“ for young people as he claimed credit for his party’s role within the Tory-led coalition administration in “encouraging employment“.
He said there will be an “unrelenting focus” over the next two years on job and apprenticeship creation.
Mr Clegg claimed there was progress and added: “But there are still firms and young people missing out.
“We have nearly five million businesses in the UK but little over 100,000 currently offer apprenticeships. We need to be more ambitious; I want to see that number double to 200,000.
“Over time, I want to see apprenticeships viewed as a much more mainstream route to work. They’re a crucial building block for the stronger economy and fairer society we all seek, enabling everyone to get on in life.”
Mr Clegg has already publicly backed the Journal’s NEvolution campaign, which calls for the region to have more spending powers, and said an announcement on how the Government will adopt the Lord Heseltine report, which says Whitehall should hand over decision making powers to major cities, is pending.
He did not comment on any future rounds of RGF but said the funds the Chancellor will offer in the Comprehensive Spending Review may disappoint some.
He said: “I hope we will be able to announce very shortly how we will act on the recommendations from Lord Heseltine that in effect mean we will take pots of money that at the moment are hoarded in Whitehall and give them to give them to the North East and other parts of the country.
“He aimed high in terms of the figure he wanted. I think we are going to get there in steps. I know NEvolution implied there was an overnight revolution but it’s not, it is a journey.
“The next important step in the journey is to act on the Heseltine report. Both myself and the Chancellor George Osbourne are determined to do so.
“It means a bit of banging heads together in Whitehall and that is what we are in the process of doing now.
“I hope that it will give the North East more of the resources it needs to make its own luck and to create its own prosperity and opportunities in the future.”
I want to see apprenticeships viewed as a much more mainstream route to work