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Prince meets up with apprentics; Duke of York gives royal seal of approval to region's economic growth.

Byline: GEORGE COLLINS

YOUNG apprentices came face to face with royalty when Prince Andrew called in at their work. The Duke of York met a band of nine apprentices employed by the Bernicia Housing Group when he checked in at its new Ashington base yesterday.

The royal visitor was on a three-part trip to the county which also saw him take in the National Renewable Energy Centre (Narec) at Blyth and a pharmaceutical company at Morpeth. The Duke called at Bernicia's new 40,000sqft headquarters at the town's Ashwood Business Park to learn about the group's apprenticeship programme.

He met the nine local young people chosen from over 370 applications for roles in business administration, customer services, electrical, plumbing joinery and bricklaying trades.

One of those who made it was John Tuck, 21, from North Seaton, who has completed his apprenticeship and hopes to become a full time joiner.

He said of his meeting with royalty: "I thought it was very exciting, I was a bit nervous but it all went well. It really was an honour."

Another to meet the Duke was Joe Gadsby, 20, also from North Seaton, and in the first year of his bricklaying apprenticeship.

He said: "He was really down to earth and seemed really interested in what we had to say. He seemed really interested in apprenticeships." Prince Andrew also chatted with management, staff and residents and was presented with a carved coal ornament.

He told those gathered: "Thank you very much for the opportunity of coming here. "It has been not only about learning what goes on here but how important you are in the local community because of the number of people you employ here and because of the apprenticeship scheme."

Bernicia group chairman Ian Armstrong said: "He showed a great interest in the business and asked a great many constructive questions.

"He met many of our staff and apprentices and I think everybody was charmed by his visit."

The Duke had earlier called at Narec where he unveiled new offshore wind turbine blade and tidal turbine drive train testing facilities. The new facilities are the result of a combined investment of PS33.6m by the Government and the European Regional Development Fund.

The blade test facility - the biggest of its kind - was completed in August and is ready for commercial operations. The drive train test facility, known as Nautilus, recently completed its first client test.

The Duke also took a tour of a third facility currently under construction for the testing of large offshore wind turbines.

The PS45m facility will be operational in spring next year with a first customer commissioning to follow in the summer.

CAPTION(S):

INTEREST Duke visits the new Bernicia building in Ashington

INVESTMENT Prince Andrew at the National Renewable Energy Centre to open two new facilities
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Dec 4, 2012
Words:470
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