Gerard Coyne, who is seeking to replace Len McCluskey as the general secretary of Unite in next month’s ballot, chatted to students about skills required in the modern-day economy during a tour of the TCAT campus.
He said: “It was great to visit Telford College and speak to staff and students about the fantastic work being done here.
“It’s clear from what I’ve seen that young people here have a bright future ahead of them, thanks to the quality of the facilities and the education they’re receiving.
“It’s important that more young people have the chance to receive the same standard of training and apprenticeships as those at Telford College, but too often today apprenticeships are simply an excuse for big companies to employ young people at knock-down prices.
“That’s one of the reasons I’m standing to be general secretary of Unite the union – it’s high time we focused on ensuring that our members have the skills they need to succeed in their careers.”
Mr Coyne spoke about the importance of encouraging more females to take up STEM subjects as a career option – something which Telford College has also set as an important goal.
He talked to many students about their course and careers aspirations, before delivering a speech to over 40 engineering students in the TCAT Discovery Centre.
Mr Coyne paid tribute to Telford College’s Automotive and Discovery Centre buildings, saying they stood up well to industry standards in an ever-changing manufacturing sector.
He cited the way in which robots at Jaguar Land Rover were evolving and presenting different skills demands for workers, and said he felt TCAT was delivering good quality courses adapting to these changes.
And Mr Coyne said that, if elected General Secretary of Unite, he would introduce a Unite Apprenticeship scheme, working in tandem with colleges such as TCAT and major employers.
Mr Coyne’s speech was well received by students, including Luke Hester, who is on a PEO Engineering course and explained some of the barriers he had faced towards his chosen career.
Luke completed eight months of work at Telford manufacturing company Denso and is now looking for an apprenticeship within manufacturing.
He told Mr Coyne he came to TCAT as there was no vacancy available – because at the age of 19 employers would need to pay more for him.
Dan Blasczyk, Enrichment Facilitator at TCAT, said “I was delighted that Gerard accepted my invitation to come and speak to our students.
“What stood out for me was that Gerard emphasised the important role young people such as our students have in taking the country forward.
“Gerard talked about things which matter to young people, developing the necessary skills needed secure high quality apprenticeships. He also listened to them and took in their views on Apprenticeships and skills.”
Shaun Davies, leader of Telford and Wrekin Council, was also part of the visit. He said: “This was an excellent opportunity for us to showcase what is great about Telford and Wrekin and the excellent facilities we have at TCAT.
“It is a pleasure to have a major national figure come and see for himself that Telford is on the up.”