23 May 2019

“Apprenticeships are the future for our workforce”

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Apprentices Jess Sugden, Amy Shenton and Jake Sheffield took the stage at a recent Leeds Manufacturing Festival event, sharing their perspective on why they chose apprenticeships over other career paths and lessons for employers wanting to recruit young people into their business.

Jess, who completed an apprenticeship in business administration and is now moving onto a level 4 apprenticeship in procurement, pointed out that schools too often push young people to apply for university rather than looking for a career industry.

So, it’s important for employers to go into schools and promote the opportunities that apprenticeships offer.

“It’s the employers who come into school who will attract young people. But go into the classroom – to technology and other classes – and talk to young people, not just school assemblies,” said Amy.

For young people, there was some equally direct advice: “Do your research on what you want to do and the kind of company you want to work for,” said Jake, an apprentice with engineering company Saftronics.

“Go to open days and visit different companies. Make sure they are offering progression.”

Saftronics specialises in the design and manufacture of power distribution and process control systems for major utilities companies.

Managing director Mark Godfrey sees apprenticeships as increasingly important in bringing new people into the business and developing the skills they need.

“Our workforce is split 50:50 between the shop floor and office staff and we’re increasingly looking at other areas of the business, not just engineering, that could be helped by apprenticeships,” he said.

“Apprenticeships are the future for our workforce – they give us the opportunity to develop and grow people to fit our business from day one.”

Although less so in Leeds than other parts of the country, there has been a dip in the number of apprenticeships starts since the government introduced the apprenticeship levy two years ago.

“Yet there’s increasing recognition of the benefits that apprentices can bring to business as well as a wide range of support and funding for employers looking to set up an apprenticeship programme,” said Julia Massey, head of Leeds City Council’s employment access and growth team.

The Leeds Apprenticeship Hub run by the team offers dedicated support to match young people with employers. She explained that the service can also advise employers on apprenticeship standards, training providers, how to access funding as well as promoting vacancies across an extensive network of schools, colleges and social media platforms.

Leeds City College is one of the region’s biggest apprenticeship training providers. Last year, it helped 2,500 businesses across the Leeds City Region, delivering training for around 10,000 apprenticeships.

“We offer a combination of block release, day release and bespoke training programmes and we’re increasingly seeing employers using apprenticeships to develop and train existing staff as well as new recruits,” said the college’s business engagement adviser Kevin O’Reilly.

For more information about practical and financial support available to help employers recruiting apprentices, contact Leeds Apprenticeship Hub on 0113 378 7003 or email: employmentleeds@leeds.gov.uk

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