POOLE-based charity the RNLI is marking National Apprenticeship Week by announcing a new engineering apprenticeship programme.

The scheme will offer six new places year-on-year, building up to a 24-strong annual apprenticeship programme by 2018.

It will help provide the skills the charity will need at its new all-weather lifeboat centre in the town.

The centre will be the first facility of its kind in the UK, aiming to be a world-class centre of engineering excellence. It is due to open at the end of the year and the first six recruits will start in September.

The charity says apprenticeships will help address high youth unemployment as well as providing the engineering and boat-building skills the workforce will need for generations to come.

Dorset-based Courtney Mitchell, aged 20, an RNLI apprentice marine engineer in his second year of the charity’s current programme said: “I’ve learnt a lot so far on the programme, everything from stripping down engines to boat hull fit-outs. It’s been really worthwhile.

“After I finish the apprenticeship, I would like to go on to become a fully qualified lifeboat maintenance technician with the RNLI, and work my way up from there.

“It’s great to see the RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat centre developing; it’s going to be an amazing facility and I definitely plan to apply for a job there. The best thing about working at the RNLI is knowing that the lifeboats you are working on save lives at sea.”

The RNLI has been running an apprenticeship programme for 15 years and is already experienced in training young people in marine electronics and marine mechanical engineering.

Future skills for apprenticeships will include mechanical, electronic and electrical engineering and composite laminating. Expanding the apprenticeship programme for the new All-weather Lifeboat Centre is the first step in establishing a wider apprenticeship, traineeship and work experience programme across the RNLI.