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First apprentices selected to work on proposed Lower Thames Crossing scheme


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A teacher, an ex-bank manager and a group of school leavers have been drafted in to help deliver a multi-billion pound tunnel project.

National Highways has unveiled the first group of local apprentices to work on its proposed £8.2bn Lower Thames Crossing project, between Kent and Thurrock in Essex.

The first group of apprentices have been selected to work on the Lower Thames Crossing proposals. Photo: National Highways
The first group of apprentices have been selected to work on the Lower Thames Crossing proposals. Photo: National Highways

The 16-metre wide tunnels – to go under the river between Gravesend and Medway – have been dubbed Britain’s most ambitious roads project in a generation

It has been tipped to help solve some of the gridlock traffic, particularly around the Dartford Crossing, which currently plagues motorists.

If approved, National Highways says it would improve journeys and drive economic growth, as well as play an important role in the region's recovery by supporting more than 22,000 jobs during its construction.

Now the government-owned company behind the proposals, has announced eight new apprentices to help deliver the scheme.

All have been recruited locally following an application process that saw almost 100 applications from Kent, Essex and Greater London.

The proposed Lower Thames Crossing. Picture: National Highways
The proposed Lower Thames Crossing. Picture: National Highways

The diverse group include school leavers, a qualified teacher and an ex-bank manager.

Alongside playing a key role in the development of the scheme, the apprentices will study for their project management Higher National Certification qualifications, equivalent to a Foundation Degree and Degree level quantity surveying.

They will be paid a salary during their tenure with the company whilst gaining vital on-the-job experience.

Nina Weatherly, a former teacher, will now work as an apprentice project manager for the Lower Thames Crossing.

She said: “I chose to apply for this apprenticeship for a number of reasons; personal circumstances changing, children grown up, Covid making me reassess values in life and wanting to use a degree I studied so hard for in geography.

"I always wanted to be a teacher for which I gave 23 years of my career life.

The apprentices will work towards a qualification whilst gaining valuable on the job experience. Photo: National Highways
The apprentices will work towards a qualification whilst gaining valuable on the job experience. Photo: National Highways

"I’m now one month into a new apprenticeship and have been delighted by the support and knowledge I’ve been exposed to so far.

"I would encourage anyone looking for a challenge or change in direction to explore this pathway and road to a better future.”

New images and a video have been released by highways planners in a drive to show improvements to the Lower Thames Crossing scheme.

Critics however remained fixed in opposition to the plan, with Gravesham council stating it remains "opposed to the principle" of the project to the east of Gravesend.

It comes after the plans were withdrawn amid claims of a ‘flawed’ consultation process.

New elements of the £8.2 billion scheme are being designed to reduce the impact of the crossing on surrounding communities and the environment.

Matt Palmer, Chief executive of the Lower Thames Crossing. Photo: Highways England/YouTube
Matt Palmer, Chief executive of the Lower Thames Crossing. Photo: Highways England/YouTube

National Highways is currently trawling through more than 3,000 responses from a recent consultation.

This will be used to help further develop its application, which must be approved by the government, to build and operate the Lower Thames Crossing.

Matt Palmer, Lower Thames Crossing executive director, said: “We’re building for the future at the Lower Thames Crossing, connecting people to jobs and businesses to customers.

"We need a diverse workforce with new ideas and energy to help us design, build, and operate it in a way that will bring the most benefit to the local community and UK.

"These apprentices will play a vital role in helping us deliver this transformational project.

“This is one of the first of many new opportunities to bring local people and local businesses new jobs, new training and new work.

"This group’s diversity exemplifies what we want to achieve in our local communities, by supporting those of all ages and backgrounds into fulfilling jobs.”

The proposed Lower Thames Crossing. Picture: National Highways
The proposed Lower Thames Crossing. Picture: National Highways

The group are the first to be employed into the project’s skill programme which aims to support thousands of local jobs, and through traineeships, work placements and engagement with students and teachers, leave a genuine legacy of skills within the community.

Earlier this year National Highways worked with local schools in Kent and Essex to create new educational Minecraft games designed to inspire young people to consider a career in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

National Highways are already recruiting for four new project management graduates to join the Lower Thames Crossing next September 2022. The application deadline closes on Wednesday October 27.

Shellina Prendergast, Kent County Council’s cabinet member for education and skills, said: “Kent County Council is a strong advocate for apprenticeships and we offer a wide variety of placements working for the local authority as well as supporting other businesses to take on apprentices by sharing our apprenticeship levy.

"Apprenticeships are an excellent way to help young people into work, or assist existing members of staff with furthering their careers, as well as being a fantastic way for organisations to gain high quality employees.

“We wish all the National Highways apprentices the best of luck with their qualifications and their future careers.”

The new and future apprentices will support the Lower Thames Crossing as it progresses through its development phase, and if granted planning permission, support its delivery.

For more information about the scheme click here.

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