Minister for Business and Enterprise, MP Mark Prisk, visited the Building Research Establishment in Watford yesterday to launch a new apprenticeship scheme.

He and Watford MP Richard Harrington met the first six recruits to the scheme, which is offering the first laboratory technician apprenticeships in the region.

The programme gives apprentices practical and theoretical knowledge of working in the environmental and fire testing industries.

The apprentices are already working at BRE, learning about fire resistance, detection and suppression, as well as the use of materials, test instruments and climatic and environmental testing.

They all attend Oaklands College in St Albans one day per week to complete an academic qualification.

Mr Prisk said: "Apprenticeships equip people of all ages with the skills they need to succeed and having a strong skills base will remain crucial in leading the economy towards renewed growth.

"Despite the economic climate, the construction and built environment continues to recognise the value of apprenticeships. It’s this investment in skills that will help support the industry in meeting its green targets as we move towards a low carbon economy.

"We are making sure they get the range of skills we need now and in the future, and to help them get their feet on the ladder."

During his visit, the Minister also toured a number of buildings on the BRE Innovation Park including the Victorian Terrace.

The project showcases some of the latest designs BRE and its partners have been working on in advance of the Government’s Green Deal initiative.

Mr Prisk added: "Initially the technology seemed remote from the day to day market place, but now you can see how it actually relates to what people want."