Apprenticeship take up has been good says LEP chairman

Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership has praised the way the county has pulled together on apprenticeships.

And chairman Peter Pawsey has highlighted the Worcester News 100 in 100 campaign as “the sort of excellent initiative which has been driving the skills agenda”.

Employers across the board had shown “strong engagement” with Government programmes.

Indeed 2010-11 had seen a 30 per cent jump in the number of apprentices but because Worcestershire was behind the national average and hence with catching up to do, it meant the Worcester News campaign was even more important.

The on-going project launched last year aimed to tackle record youth unemployment levels, linking with the National Apprenticeship Service to secure 100 apprentice positions in Worcestershire companies in 100 days.

It quickly far exceeded the milestone and is continuing to see successes.

Mr Pawsey said: “This has been a great campaign by the paper.

“Companies are benefiting and young people are getting the chance of knowledge and work. It has been a win-win and much to the credit of the News.

“This has got many in the community thinking about apprenticeships and the benefits and opportunities they can bring. Unemployment among young people is far too high and we welcome all ways in which it can be brought down.”

The campaign, which was also supported by Herefordshire and Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce, Worcestershire County Council and Skills for Security, saw positions offered in construction, hospitality, recruitment, childcare, even a dental laboratory and a barber’s shop.

Mr Pawsey said: “In the past lack of skills has held back the West Midlands generally, restricting economic growth.

“Worcestershire too has had its issues.

“But the Government has taken a very positive position on apprenticeships, with a series of pledges, programmes and targets.

“In Worcestershire the response from employers has been impressive and, in conjunction with Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Shropshire Training Providers Association we must use this as a springboard to further address the needs of both business and young people. A skilled workforce is vital if we are going to take the county forward.

“One of our key priorities is to encourage the creation of more apprenticeships in sectors where there are skills gaps in the local economy. And that particularly applies to advanced apprenticeships such as in manufacturing, hospitality, the digital economy and IT, creative industries and construction.

“In doing so we are working on improving information advice and guidance to employers thinking of taking on an apprentice.”

He went on: “My one concern is the number of agencies involved in the skills arena – there are a lot.

“And the message reaching us is coordination on the ground needs improving.

“Working with the various organisations and stakeholders Worcestershire LEP intends to do all it can to ensure bottlenecks and red tape do not get in the way, so persuading many more employers to recruit young people.”