Rory Stewart on Friday spent time with Wigton’s Nelson Thomlinson School’s award-winning DigiPi computer software team. The Young Enterprise group of ten Year 12 students had identified a gap in the market for computer programming training materials for primary-age students. They have developed a unique program to train students as young as six in computer programming. Rory met and chatted with the student team. He learnt how their  ‘Raspberry Pi’ product, generates lesson plans and training resources. It will be used by primary school teachers to help prepare for the new ICT to Computer Science curriculum in September 2014. The team’s innovation and vision has just been recognised in the North Cumbria Young Enterprise awards, where they won Best Trade Stand, Best Presentation, Best Company Report, Marketing and Champion Company, and latterly in the Cumbria County Finals where they scooped the awards for Best Company Report and County Champion Company.

Rory was taught the basics of the Raspberry Pi programme by DigiPi MD Matthew Duckworth, and said: “Matthew and the DigiPi team are truly inspirational, leading the way nationally in meeting the challenges of a changing national computing curriculum and displaying a really staggeringly sophisticated product that they deserve to be able to sell as widely as possible. That they have identified a niche like this, and have developed and promoted it in such an impressive way, is really amazing. I would love to be able to invite them to Parliament to show their product to colleagues, and to see if they can spread the word about this product to other parts of England.”

Matthew Duckworth MD of DigiPi said: “The highlight of the visit for me was getting to teach Rory the basics of computer programming. He asked some really insightful questions about our business which seemed to spark his imagination in terms of the whole concept of computer programming.”

Company Secretary Kathryn Fawcett said: “It was great to see Rory Stewart get so involved and show so much enthusiasm for our company concept” with Finance Director Mark Bragg adding: “Having Rory Stewart meet with us really helped build our confidence, as it gave us the opportunity to explain and demonstrate our computer programming resources.”

His visit, with its focus on young enterprise and the importance of giving young people a platform to engage in business, coincided with news that the number of Penrith and The Border workplaces employing apprentices increased by almost 40% between 2010 and 2013. The figures suggest that Government reforms have helped make apprenticeships both simpler for businesses, and more attractive as an option for young people. The latest figures show that in 2010/2011 there were 410 work places employing apprentices, with this number rising to 510 in 2011/2012 and 570 in 2012/2013.

Rory said: “This steady increase in apprenticeships is excellent news, and I’m really pleased to see that here in the constituency we are seeing directly the results of the government’s goal of raising the nation’s skills, and creating a positive environment for employers to take on more apprentices. Coupled with the recent news that our constituency has one of the lowest unemployment figures in Britain, the increase in workplaces offering apprenticeships shows that the future is looking better and better for young people and small businesses in Penrith and The Border.”

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