It was a double ground-breaking day when work began on BAE Systems’ new £15m state-of-the-art training academy.
For it also heralded the first development to take place on the adjoining Lancashire Enterprise Zone at Samlesbury, near Preston.
The start of construction was marked by a ground-breaking ceremony.
It also coincided with a new cohort of apprentices joining BAE Systems’ Military Air and Information business.
The new BAE-funded facility will be completed in around a year’s time.
BAE Systems is one of the largest employers of apprentices in the UK and it invests around £80m per year in training and skills.
At any one time there are more than 1,000 apprentices in training across the UK.
In July, the Company vowed to boost the number of apprentices in training to 2,000 by 2018.
Chris Boardman, Managing Director of BAE Systems MAI division, commented: “The ground breaking today is a significant milestone in this exciting development that will provide cutting-edge facilities and greater capacity for future apprentices joining our business.”
Apprentices are now trained at the firm’s Preston site.
BAE Systems says there will be major benefits to having training based at Samlesbury in a new state-of-ther-art building.
Apprentice Anne Pilkington, aged 26, of Penwortham, said: “It will bring it all a bit closer once it’s based up here.”
BAE Systems has worked closely with the Lancashire Local Enterprise Partnership, which is creating Enteprise Zones both at Samlesbury and at BAE’s Warton site.
The LEP been criticised by a Government minister and county businesses for a lack of progress on both sites.
Today chairman Edwin Booth said he was pleased that the frustrating wait was over and work could now begin in earnest.
He said there had been major delays caused by the need to create a new access to the Samlesbury site and other legal issues.
Mr Booth said there had been an enormous amount of work done by his team over four years, and things could finally move forward.
He said: “It has been a complex programme and I don’t think people really appreciate how long it can take to deliver. We have spent a great deal of time on contracts and so on.”
The LEP is investing hundreds of millions of pounds to transform the county, aiming to create 50,000 new jobs, 40,000 new houses and boosting the economy by £3bn.
*For more on this story, see Tuesday’s business section.