THIS week is National Apprenticeship Week, where colleges and employers up and down the country host events and put out extra information about the career routes they offer through apprenticeships.

It’s also a good opportunity for the education and skills sector to celebrate the achievements of apprentices around the country and highlight the positive careers that can be had through apprenticeships that lead to good paying jobs, and how that in turn helps businesses and the wider economy.

There are now more than 670 different high quality apprenticeship streams available in a wide range of roles, and from this year there will be the first ever NHS doctor apprenticeship and a brand-new degree apprenticeship in space systems engineering which will launch later this year too.

Just last week, the Government also announced a new teacher degree apprenticeship which will revolutionise the pathway to the classroom. Enabling schools to retain and recruit the quality teachers they need, whilst also enabling those who are looking at a career in teaching to earn while they learn.

We all know that no two people are the same, and that is certainly the case when it comes to training for a new qualification or aiming for a new career. That's why the Government has made a determined effort to create these alternative pathways into these successful careers other than simply going to university – and also why there is no upper age limit on when a person can start an apprenticeship.

Locally, I am pleased to be able to announce the date for my own Apprenticeship and Skills Fair which I organise annually to give local people of all ages that extra chance to meet face to face with employers and apprenticeship providers.

This year's event will be on Friday March 15 and again be at Kingswinford Community Centre. As always, the event will be completely free to attend and be open from 3pm till 5pm.

We already have a great list of organisations signed up to offer information on the day, including Dudley College, the NHS, Halesowen College, the Army, West Midlands Ambulance Service, West Midlands Police, National Infrastructure Solutions, Barclays Bank and more.

We’re lucky to have fantastic cadet and reserve squadrons locally – including the Kingswinford Squadron Air Training Corps in Dudley South. Last Sunday, I had the pleasure of being invited to join the RAF cadets – together with squadrons from Stourbridge, Dudley and Halesowen – for ATC Sunday, where they renewed their promises, and once again a brilliant service was given by Father Adam at St Mary’s Parish Church.

Finally, I’ll wrap up this week’s column with our collective best wishes for The King following the announcement of his recent cancer diagnosis.

In Parliament, I met with a number of people from Cancer Research UK this week to discuss the progress that is being made in preventing, diagnosing and treating cancer and what more is needed.

Sadly there are few families that have not experienced the horrible news of a loved one being diagnosed with cancer – and the Royal Family is no different. Fortunately, the King’s cancer has been caught early and we can all hope that the treatment he receives will ensure he can get back to good health and public duties as soon as possible.