RECENT announcements have reminded us how important physical infrastructure is to all of us, but in particular to business and industry. What is less often discussed is the importance to businesses of all sizes of digital and communications infrastructure. It is in many ways hidden infrastructure, and the role of UK companies who design, build, operate and maintain these critical networks can also be overlooked. One of these companies is Telent, who I visited recently at their site just outside Warwick. You may not have heard of them, but you will certainly have heard of the organisations they work with, including Transport for London, Highways England, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, Network Rail, Openreach and the nuclear power station Hinkley Point C.
While I was there I met several apprentices who were working on projects with these organisations and developing crucial skills for a career in these important fields. They were an impressive reminder of the high quality opportunities available in our area for talented young people in addition to Further or Higher Education. Indeed some apprenticeships offer the opportunity to study at degree level as part of the course, so the boundaries between the vocational and the academic are much more permeable than they once were. The idea that apprentices get their hands dirty in tasks that require little brainpower, while University undergraduates study subjects of no practical value in ivory towers has been wrong for a long time, and undermines our capacity to help our young people along the paths that are best for them and best for our economy, which will of course be different for each of them. More and more of those paths can and should lead them to the careers which will dominate the employment landscape in an era of increasing digitisation, including the development and operation of our vital digital infrastructure, and there is more of that work being done locally than we might realise.