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Friday, 25 July 2014

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Celebrating skills of our apprentices

FEBRUARY saw one of the UK’s biggest annual drives roll out once more with National Apprenticeship Week. Running from February 7 to 11, this was the week when all eyes were on apprenticeships raising the profile amongst employers, learners and parents.

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Training expertise: Sue Clarke, sales consultant, left, and Judith Hill, right, employment support officer with JHP Training, were on hand to offer careers advice to prospective apprentices at Connexions offices during National Apprenticeship Week.

It is a flagship event for both the National Apprenticeship Service and the Government, celebrating the talents and skills of apprentices, and promoting the government’s key message to employers and learners that apprenticeships are high-quality investments.

Apprenticeships are a proven way to train workforces and can make an organisation more effective and productive by filling any areas with skills gaps.

Annual funding for apprenticeships has been increased from £250m to £398m, currently there are over 85,000 employers offering apprenticeships nationwide.

This funding increase will help the National Apprenticeship Service deliver up to 75,000 more apprenticeship places.

A Government drive to get more than 300,000 people into apprenticeships was launched during the week with a day of events, including careers advice sessions across West Cumbria.

Ministers want to increase the number of apprentices to help companies lead the UK out of the economic slump.

In Workington and Whitehaven, local training firm JHP Training held drop-in sessions at the Connexions advice centre in the towns. The company runs apprenticeships in sectors including admin and retail, customer skills and child care.

Judith Hill, employment support officer at JHP, said: “We have had two very successful sessions this week speaking to a lot of people from teenagers, to parents and even grandparents about the opportunities in apprenticeships.

“Enquiries have mainly been about employment with companies and when to start applying. We have noticed an increase in interest for apprenticeships which is just down to the current economic situation – people are looking to get a wage now alongside gaining a qualification and practical experience.

“The most popular apprenticeships with people are admin and child care as these can lead to opportunities in a whole range of careers.

“Linking these sessions into National Apprenticeship Week has made people more aware of the different routes into education. It also promotes a good relationship between ourselves, Connexions and the young people of West Cumbria.”

Sue Clarke, sales consultant at JHP, said: “Apprenticeships are a great way for young people to get on-the-job training.

“Young people join a company, usually for a year, and get training as well as earning a wage and getting used to working life. They get an NVQ Level 2 qualification at the end of it and can get offered a permanent job. Employers get an enthusiastic and energetic employee who can bring a fresh perspective to their business.

“We’ve noticed a lot more college students asking about apprenticeships because of the scrapping of the educational maintenance allowance (EMA). That has meant some young people now can’t afford to stay in education and are looking for other options.

“The rise in tuition fees might have put some off going to university, but the young people who are interested in apprenticeships tend not to be those who would have considered going to university anyway.”

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