A THERMAL insulation trade body is investing £400,000 to train the next generation of North-East workers.

The Thermal Insulation Contractors Association (TICA) is re-developing its national training centre, in Darlington, to cater for hundreds of youngsters.

The moves comes as National Apprenticeship Week, which starts on Monday (March 3), aims to highlight the importance of young workers and their value to businesses and the economy.

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The changes will increase TICA's number of apprentices and allow it to take on Scottish students, who will train in Darlington from August.

It will also allow bosses to introduce an advanced apprenticeship, which will be piloted in autumn, as well as a number of new courses.

Bosses say work on the centre, which is based on Yarm Road Business Park, includes an extra floor, new classrooms and meeting rooms and extra workshop space, that will be ready for the next academic year.

TICA, which is a trade association representing companies in the hot and cold thermal insulation industry, trains more than 250 apprentices across England and Wales.

It is the only UK training provider to offer apprenticeship training in industrial thermal insulation.

National Apprenticeship Week, which runs until Friday, March 7, will feature a series of events aiming to increase awareness of companies' need to utilise young workers and their talents.

Earlier this month, figures showed apprenticeships are growing in popularity, with a 24 per cent quarterly rise in the number of vacancies.

The results, revealed by the National Apprenticeship Service, said 37,410 jobs were advertised between August and October last year, compared to 30,230 in the same period in 2012.

Skills Minister Matthew Hancock said companies must look at the value of apprentices.

He said: “Apprenticeships are growing in appeal to young people, and more young women are also seeking out opportunities to earn while they learn and gain a recognised qualification.

“With research revealing that one-in-five employers have former apprentices working in senior, board level, positions, it’s very encouraging to see vacancies increasing and new employers coming on board.

“But with each online position attracting an average of 12 applications, demand continues to outstrip supply.

“That's why employers must consider how they can take advantage of the pool of talent and grow their business through apprenticeships.”