Member of Parliament for Leeds West, Rachel Reeves has visited global language leader thebigword, to learn more about the ways in which the organisation is supporting regional and local development.

Touring the organisations’ global head office she learned about some the work that thebigword dedicated Defence and International Management Division – the only one of its kind in Europe – is involved in. Supporting, among others, NATO forces by delivering language professionals to operational areas, the division is responsible for aiding communication and reconstruction across the globe.

Ms Reeves was interested to learn from the division’s Senior Vice President, Clare Riches, about plans to create a Northern Defence Forum. Scheduled to launch within the next few months, the group will bring together organisations from across the region to form an industry hub which, it is hoped, will be mutually beneficial to the groups involved and drive the development of sector growth in the area.

Rachel was also eager to meet participants in the organisations’ award winning apprenticeship scheme and understand how thebigword supports young people locally. Offering individuals of school leaving age the opportunity to earn while they learn vital skills for the world of work, the programme, which launched in 2011 has seen in excess of 150 people graduate – many of whom have gone on to secure permanent employment with thebigword.

Speaking to Natalie Wilson, one of the first participants Rachel learned what the scheme means to those who take part. “While it was daunting at first, enrolling on the apprenticeship scheme has been fantastic” commented Natalie, who is now responsible for leading on the delivery of complex translation projects for clients around the world. “I’ve not just developed the skills which I need to flourish in the workplace but, with on-going development and experience gained through challenging and interesting work I now have the confidence to push myself and really succeed”.

Exploring the work undertaken within the community by thebigword, whose head office is located within her constituency, Rachel also spent time with members of staff who offer their time to support the New Wortley Community Centre.

Developing a forum which provides mentoring and training to members of the community who are seeking to build and develop their life skills, volunteers from thebigword design and lead sessions on a regular basis. With new premises designed to expand the centre’s capacity nearing completion, members of staff will be on hand to offer further, targeted assistance in response to community needs.

Learning about the work, Rachel Reeves commented “I really enjoyed my visit to thebigword, it is one of the largest employers in my constituency and the apprenticeship scheme offers outstanding opportunities to young people, and not just to those who have language skills. It was also very interesting to meet staff members who were volunteering in New Wortley, mentoring people involved in the ‘Our Place’ initiative.”

Reflecting on the work Bernadette Byrne, Group Client Services Director and lead on the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility programme noted “I am so proud of what we achieve both locally and within the wider region. Whether the creation of industry centres of excellence, providing the opportunity for individuals to flourish within the work place or the sharing of skills locally, it’s amazing what we achieve. Ultimately, this is a testament to the enthusiasm and commitment our staff show – something which consistently makes thebigword an exciting place to be.”