Duke praises work being done to build local business

HRH Prince Andrew visiting Bernicia's new offices in Ashington to talk to tenants, staff and apprentices.
HRH Prince Andrew visiting Bernicia's new offices in Ashington to talk to tenants, staff and apprentices.

APPRENTICES from a housing organisation in Ashington received a visit from royalty this week.

The apprenticeship programme run by the Bernicia Housing Group was given the royal seal of approval when the Duke of York met the trainees on Monday.

Prince Andrew visited the company’s new 40,000 sq ft headquarters at the Ashwood Business Park in Ashington.

He spent time speaking to the young apprentices, as well as Bernicia chairman Ian Armstrong, deputy group chief executive John Johnston, and other residents and staff during a tour of the building.

“I am impressed by the growing apprenticeship scheme you have here and very encouraged to hear how local schools and colleges are helping young people to find apprenticeships,” the Duke said.

“The fact that you have an apprentice scheme that is growing is wonderful, and I hope that more businesses take note of the work being done here around apprenticeships, and I wish you all the success.

“Thank you for the work that you do, because there are a huge number of residents that rely on what you do.”

Apprentice joiner, John Tuck, 21, from South Ridge, North Seaton, said: “It was great getting to meet him, and he was asking what it was like going from school straight into the workplace, and if I felt prepared for the world of work.

“I have just finished my apprenticeship and really enjoyed it, and it was exciting, but nervous to get to meet a prince.”

Bernicia chairman Ian Armstrong presented the Duke with an ornamental piece of coal, and said: “We have all been excited about the visit.

“Thank you for the great insight you have shown in us and what we do.”

As well as its HQ, Bernicia launched its apprenticeship programme to provide nine local people with the opportunity to lay the foundations of a career in the housing sector.

There were more than 370 applications for roles in business administration, customer services, electrical, plumbing, joinery and bricklaying trades.

The visit to Bernicia was the second of three stops by the Duke to see examples of investment in infrastructure and people designed to support economic recovery in Northumberland.

The Duke also opened two facilities in Blyth that will test renewable energy technologies.

The wind turbine blade and tidal turbine testing facilities were developed at the National Renewable Energy Centre, Narec.

The £33.6m project was funded by the UK government and the European Regional Development Fund.

Prince Andrew took a tour of a £45m centre currently under construction for the testing of offshore wind turbines.

Andrew Mill, chief executive at Narec, said: “Each facility is world-class in its own right and together with our existing capabilities they provide the most comprehensive facilities anywhere in the world to enable the scale-up of renewable energy technologies offshore.”

He also took a tour of a third facility, currently under construction for testing offshore wind turbines.

The Duke’s third visit in the county was to a pharmaceutical facility in Morpeth.