THE Minister for Defence People and Families visited Worthy Down Camp to hear the stories of trainees to mark National Apprenticeship Week.

Dr Andrew Murrison, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Defence, highlighted the importance of apprenticeships and the transferrable skills they can offer to set military personnel up for civilian life.

The minister, who is MP for south west Wiltshire, was guided around the tri-service training facilities at Worthy Down Camp at Winchester Garrison on Thursday, February 8, during National Apprenticeship Week.

His visit comes as the military is reportedly struggling to attract recruits.

Dr Murrison spoke to apprentices at all stages of their training from the Army, Navy and Royal Air Force (RAF). The camp offers more than 130 types of apprenticeships from aeronautical engineering to animal welfare, with the Ministry of Defence being the biggest single employer of apprentices in the country.

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Hampshire Chronicle: Ben DoughtyBen Doughty (Image: Adele Bouchard)

Ben Doughty, 34, from Lincolnshire, joined as a food service apprentice in October as he wanted to do something “more meaningful”.

Ben, who previously worked in customer service, said: “I felt it was better late than never. I’d done a bit of everything before hand but this a career and gives me a purpose. You get the feeling you are doing something with your life that matters. I’ve gone from one job to the next and never found something as fulfilling.

“People probably aren’t joining because it’s a big disturbance to their lives. For anyone with families and children it must be really difficult. You have to go and stay at places for weeks or sometimes months at a time. It’s quite mentally tough too.

“I would recommend joining the military as an apprentice 100 per cent. I’ve met some really nice people and I’m hoping to travel with the RAF. It’s really important to recognise apprentices as we work really hard to do a good job and get qualified.”

Shoymma Gaymes, 28, left her home and life in the Caribbean as a teacher to become a food service apprentice training at Worthy Down, starting just before Christmas.

Hampshire Chronicle: Shoymma Gaymes (right)Shoymma Gaymes (right) (Image: Adele Bouchard)

She said: “I’m adjusting to life here as it’s really different. I’m gaining a lot of knowledge and meeting new people. My best friend is in the military and that’s why I decided to give it a try.

“It’s quite overwhelming having the minister here as not a lot of people get to experience or have a one-to-one conversation with him.

“There are people from across the Commonwealth that want to join but the restrictions make it difficult. Others have families back home that they don’t want to leave or they don’t feel brave enough.”

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At the end of his visit, Dr Murrison said: “It’s been a great day. There is so much activity and a real buzz about this establishment.

“People don’t appreciate the full range of opportunities that young people can have in defence these days. I hope apprentices will stay in defence but we all become civilians eventually and these apprenticeships give them qualifications they can use in life afterwards.

Hampshire Chronicle: Dr Murrison's visit to Worthy Down CampDr Murrison's visit to Worthy Down Camp (Image: Adele Bouchard)

“The military is struggling with recruitment right across the western world, it’s just a fact of life that we have to deal with in a very competitive employment market with low unemployment rates.

“Defence therefore has to double its efforts particularly in skills it can offer to attract people to the job. Young people are much more discerning now.

“We have got all we need for our operational departments. The public can be assured that we are doing everything that we need to do. We’re having to work hard all the time to make sure that we have the people we need. Being fully complimented is a challenge because there are lots of jobs out there.

“Places like Worthy Down are worth celebrating, I’m very impressed with the quality of training. We need to make it clear that defence is an excellent opportunity for young people or people who want a change in career.”