APPRENTICE star and award-winning businesswoman Karren Brady CBE was the VIP guest as a Redditch training provider launched its new training academy.

The West Ham United vice chairman, most recently seen putting candidates through their paces on BBC’s The Apprentice, was the guest speaker at the official unveiling of eResponse Recruitment’s trio of training academies in Redditch, Worcester and Kidderminster.

Ms Brady delivered a 40-minute speech alongside eResponse’s Paul Alekna in front of almost 200 guests.

The new network of training academies can cater for up to 200 delegates each day – and will help address the skills gaps for local firms hiring employees.

As part of the launch, eResponse, formed in 2003 by local brothers Paul and Joe Alekna, has assembled a new team of professional trainers who will help enhance and bring new skills to local employers.

The event follows a big year for eResponse, which in December was named in the Sunday Times Fast Track 100 for the first time ever, ranked at number 65.

Paul Alekna said: “The economy is accelerating and businesses here in Redditch and the wider county won’t be able to take advantage of all the opportunities presented to them unless they can find a way to get the talent needed to deliver.

“The problem is the skills gap. Employers have vacancies but what’s available in today’s labour market doesn’t always reflect what they want. And that’s where we believe we can really make a difference and address the needs of the employers we work with.

“We’re here to help bridge the skills gap. Combining recruitment and training together not only addresses any skill shortages but it also enhances an employer’s reputation making them more attractive to future talent and people considering a career move

“With our training academies now officially launched I am certain they will play a vital role in the local economy throughout 2014 and beyond.”

Ms Brady added: “To hear of the fantastic work firms like eResponse are doing was terrific.

“They are taking the right approach at the right time. It’s not just about recruitment, it’s also about preparing people to move into jobs, improving their skills and providing employers with the best talent available.”