Last Friday I hosted my seventh annual Apprenticeship and Jobs Fair at The Leas Cliff Hall in Folkestone. This event brings together many of our leading local employers and training providers in an informal setting, where people can find out more about jobs that are available now and places on courses that could lead to work. The event was also supported by Folkestone and Hythe District Council, and sponsored by Border Force, Brett Aggregates, Eurotunnel and Saga. Overall, we had a record number of fifty-five exhibition stands which also included the police and armed forces, representatives from the EDF Energy team from Dungeness power station, as well as National Grid and Creative Folkestone. It was great to see so many organisations from across the district represented, and we had a large number of people visiting the Jobs Fair throughout the day. One of the consistent messages I received at the event was that now that the General Election has delivered certainty on Brexit, more businesses are looking to make investment decisions that they had previously delayed. This is good news for jobs and the local economy.
I know from speaking to the exhibitors that they met people who were suitable to fill existing vacancies and others who were ready to take places that were available on training courses. Many of the visitors to the Fair also found it useful to meet with some of our larger employers so that they could gain a better understanding of the breadth of different roles available within those companies. One of the largest stands at the Jobs Fair was taken by Folkestone College to showcase their courses on media and construction. With Folkestone’s growing reputation as a centre for creative and digital businesses there are more opportunities locally for people with good media qualifications. The construction sector has also performed strongly in East Kent, as major local building schemes being planned for the seafront in Folkestone, and the new garden town at Otterpool Park, should provide more secure jobs for many years to come.
I was also pleased last week to see the Government recognise the importance of Otterpool Park to delivering more of the homes we need. The Ministry for Housing awarded a grant of £580,000 to Folkestone and Hythe District Council towards the costs of preparing environmental impact assessments for the garden town proposals, and to help with other aspects of preparing the plans for this development.
During the General Election campaign one of the issues I discussed was the potential for small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs) to provide a cost-effective clean source of energy for the future. This concept has been developed by Rolls Royce, using the technology that has been created to power nuclear submarines, to generate electricity for use in the community. Rolls Royce had now announced that the first of these SMRs will be constructed in the North of England, but there will be further sites chosen around the country. I previously arranged a meeting between Folkestone and Hythe District Council and Rolls Royce to discuss the potential for Dungeness to be a site for new SMRs. I think this has huge potential and could secure a long-term future for the nuclear industry in our area.