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You’re hired... the bid to attract apprentices
Paddy Patterson, who runs the county council’s Oxfordshire Apprenticeships team, gives advice to Kit Pentlow, 17
A MAJOR drive to recruit more apprentices is paying off with more Oxfordshire applicants being matched with employers than any other area of the south east.
Oxfordshire County Council and the National Apprenticeship Service have been supporting a series of events aimed at increasing the number of people taking up apprenticships as the ongoing financial crisis continues to bite.
Initiatives included “Apprentice Shops” which last month were held in empty premises in Wantage, Oxford and Banbury for two daysto allow new school leavers, and those looking for a change of direction in their career, to gain all the information they need.
And more effort is being made in schools in a bid to tackle the twin problems of youth unemployment and skills gaps in an increasingly ageing workforce.
Steve Nicolson, National Apprenticeships Service account manager for Oxfordshire, said: “We have been running “myth busting” events for employers all around the county along with apprentice shops to attract applicants.
“We have working with the county council to look at how employers can engage with schools a little more.
“For example, in south Oxfordshire we have set up Skills Vale UK where businesses are put in partnership with schools to gain apprentices at the end of a 12-month period.
“We are slowly starting to see the message going back to young people that these opportunities are for those who are bright and want to work hard.”
However, experts agree there is still a long way to go to match employers with a growing number of candidates in the county.
Latest figures from the National Apprenticeship Service show there were 1,204 positions made available in the year to August, a rise of 42 per cent on the previous year’s figure of 850.
But the number of applicants also increased by 15 per cent from 4,000 in the 12 months to August last year to 4,590 by the same month this year meaning there are still more than three applicants for every position available.
While some employers have embraced apprenticeships, others are still reluctant to employ them until training standards are improved for specialist areas.
Philip Hall, managing director of Burford-based Hall Construction, said he had not taken on an apprentice in seven years.
He added: “I have no objections to apprenticeships. It is an issue relating to the content of apprenticeships.
“We specialise in period properties and ecclesiastical buildings. Most of our work is in the heritage sector. I think the training can be improved and it is something I am keen to work with various groups to encourage.”
Paddy Patterson, who runs the county council’s Oxfordshire Apprenticeships team, said employers and training companies are still reporting shortages of candidates in some areas.
He said: “We have been successful in stimulating employer demand, now we need the supply to be stimulated so employers have the same quality of choice that candidates have.
“This is especially important since school leavers are now required to stay in some form of learning until they are 17 and apprenticeships will provide the opportunities for more young people than ever before.”
But bosses are being urged to recognise that taking on an apprentice does not mean a supply of cheap labour, despite the minimum apprentice wage being set at £2.65 an hour – the equivalent of earning around £100 per week or £5,167 per annum for a 37.5 hour week.
Mr Nicolson added: “We encourage employers to offer applicants reasonable pay.”
AT A GLANCE
The number of online applications for apprenticeships has risen by 15 per cent from 4,000 to 4,590 in the last year
There have been 1,204 online vacancies posted in the last 12 months, up 42 per cent from 850 for the previous year
In the South East there are eight applicants for every position, compared to just over three in Oxfordshire
The most popular apprenticeships include business administration, law, engineering and arts, media and publishing
To apply for an apprenticeship call 08000 150 600 see apprenticeships.org.uk
THE EMPLOYER: MICHAEL ASHTON
Michael Ashton, managing director of Elegant Cuisine, has just taken on 17-year-old apprentice Callum Chapman after recognising his potential while he worked at the restaurant at Millets Farm Centre, Frilford.
Mr Ashton explained: “Callum worked here at weekends and showed a real interest in becoming a chef and he has a natural flair and desire to do the job.
“We pay him above the minimum wage, he receives training and he will be given a job at the end of it.
“People remember serving apprenticeships and they seem to have more value than just putting people through National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs).”
THE APPRENTICE: DOMINIC CALLAGHAN
Dominic Callaghan is starting the fourth and final year of his apprenticeship in mechanical engineering at the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy.
Mr Callaghan, 21, from Cholsey, is involved in a cutting-edge research programme for a groundbreaking facility at the hi-tech site.
He said: “I have always wanted to be an engineer and I am delighted to be doing this.
“I could have been at university with a £50,000 debt but now I study part-time and I apply what I learn in a real working environment.
“My aim is to go to university part-time and progress my education to improve my position within the company.”
THE APPRENTICE: SARAH COX
Sarah Cox left school after completing her AS levels and started training as a hairdresser.
But she realised it was not the career she had envisaged and started looking for alternatives.
Now the 21-year-old has started an apprenticeship in human resources at public services provider Amey based at the Oxford Science Park.
She said: “I am a people person, so this is something that really interests me.”
Ms Cox works with an external training provider one day a week to train for an NVQ level three qualification and is also embarking on a Duke of Edinburgh Gold Business Award to boost her skill set still further. And being paid on the job has helped her to buy her own home at Chilton, near Didcot
She added: “I really want a career in human resources and to go as far as I can. I love coming in to work every day.”
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