Prince Andrew comes face-to-face with Crossrail tunnelling apprentices

Apprentices being trained to dig tunnels for Crossrail unexpectedly came face to face with Prince Andrew last night (Wed).

The 52-year-old Duke of York looked in at east London’s new �13 million Tunnelling & Underground Construction Academy, as part of National Apprenticeship week, to meet youngsters working on London’s �16 billion ‘super tube’ project.

His visit was hot on the heels of Prime Minister David Cameron who also made an unannounced stop at the training centre the day before.

Prince Andrew met youngsters on the apprenticeship scheme including several who had been on the dole after leaving school.

Now 70 are currently employed on Europe’s largest transport scheme—at least 400 apprenticeships will be started over the lifetime of the Crossrail project by 2018, he was told.

The academy was set up in September to tackle the shortage of people with specialist skills to work on tunnelling projects.

It is helping brush away the image of apprenticeships being “the poor relation of higher education,” the Prime Minister said when he visited on Tuesday.

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Mr Cameron went on: “We haven’t put nearly enough into vocational education and apprenticeships.

“So we are expanding higher-level apprenticeships that involve degree courses. Youngsters leaving school will go into apprenticeships, then on to a university degree linked to their training.

“This academy is the cutting edge of what we need to do as a country.”

Contractors have to send vacancies to agencies in east London 48 hours before advertising elsewhere, which gives the academy a chance to put forward ‘job ready’ candidates from the area. An unprecedented volume of tunnelling across London is taking place over the next decade, including the proposed Thames ‘super sewer’ running 17 miles under the riverbed from Barnes to Blackwall.