The Duke of York visited Swale Skills Centre as part of HRH’s Away Day in Kent during National Apprenticeship Week on 14th March, 2013. HRH was briefed by Swale Academies Trust Executive Head Teacher Alan Barham, and Swale Skills Centre Manager Brent Van De Merwe, on the origins of the centre and how it has set out to tackle the issues of youth unemployment in the local area.
The Centre is part of Swale Academies Trust and is located on the Swale Business Park in order to be close to local businesses. Students come to the centre for lessons as part of the broader curriculum while completing their GCSEs at the College. They then have the opportunity to pursue technical qualifications and apprenticeships exclusively at the centre.
The Duke met representatives from Vattenfall and Dong Energy, who are building and operating offshore wind turbines off the North Kent coast. Dong Energy brought along eight apprentices they are training in partnership with Swale Skills Centre, who were eager to tell HRH about how the centre helped them prepare for their future careers.
Touring the centre, The Duke saw the Computer Aided Design lab and the Engineering Workshop, where students demonstrated the skills that they have learnt. HRH was interested to hear that the Centre takes on commissions for work from local businesses, producing items for them in their workshop and thereby teaching the students about the business side of the skills they are studying.
The Duke was shown the Invicta Caterham Schools Project, which started in 2011 and is sponsored by the local Rotary Club. Students from the Sittingbourne Community College and Catch 22, a local charity, are building a new Caterham Car from the kit delivered from the Caterham factory, which will then be sold to finance future projects. HRH was pleased to see how the project taught not only the technical skills but also project planning and working as a team.
The Duke unveiled a plaque to commemorate the visit and told the students how impressed he had been with their work and willingness to embrace the opportunities that the centre is creating. HRH wished the centre’s staff and students the best of luck with their planned expansion.