Daventry MP visits Henry Ford Academy

Chris Heaton-Harris with some Ford apprentices
Chris Heaton-Harris with some Ford apprentices

Chris Heaton-Harris visited the Henry Ford Academy last Friday as part of the National Apprenticeship Week initiative.

The MP for Daventry was joined by the academy’s principal and representatives from Skillnet, who run the apprenticeship programme, before speaking with current apprentices about the work they do.

Pictured with Mr Heaton-Harris (second from right) are, from left to right, Skillnet's Eugene Lowry, Kevin Perks and Mark Jones, both from Ford.

Pictured with Mr Heaton-Harris (second from right) are, from left to right, Skillnet's Eugene Lowry, Kevin Perks and Mark Jones, both from Ford.

Mr Heaton-Harris then donned his overalls to try his hand at some automotive skills.

He said: “We have this amazing facility in Daventry and I’m hoping that a few students from the town will come through here in their time on the way to success.

“The academy helps to remind people in the town that there is another route to success, and that it is vocational.”

The facility was opened in March last year with Ford investing £12m in it.

With 20,000 people passing through the doors each year the benefits to the area are evident.

Mr Heaton-Harris said: “It’s a big factor in the local economy.

“If you think about 20,000 people coming through here a year, albeit not all of them stay overnight, but that benefits hotels, restaurants and so on in the area.

“It has a number of spin-offs into the local economy which are all positive.”

The number of apprentices who achieve their qualifications at the Henry Ford Academy, according to Skillnet’s Eugene Lowry, is more than 80 per cent which is higher than the national average for the industry.

But it’s not only apprentices who pass through the Daventry facility.

Salespeople and technicians will also learn their trade in the academy and later go on to find employment in a Ford dealership.

The apprentices themselves will spend considerable time with one another, living and working together for weeks at a time.

“It’s good for team spirit,” said James Kesterton, operations manager at Skillnet.

“It helps in the classroom and in the garages.

“We’ve had some guys hired in the same dealerships as each other as a result of this.”

The final chapter of Mr Heaton-Harris’ visit saw him greet a number of new apprentices who had taken their seats in a nearby classroom.

When quizzed about their experience so far in the Henry Ford Academy, one young man described it as “better than school,” and with an above national average achievement rate perhaps it’s hard to argue with him.