One of the region’s biggest housing providers has backed The Journal’s apprenticeship campaign.
Gentoo has revealed how it uses its own apprenticeship scheme to get young people into the workplace, and to give those from disadvantaged backgrounds the opportunities they need to thrive.
The group has recruited more than 240 apprentices in 12 years and is encouraging others to follow its lead with a support scheme for apprenticeship projects running throughout its supply chain.
And in a sign of its commitment, Gentoo even has its own wellbeing team to identify factors that could impact on each apprenticeship.
Among those currently benefiting from the approach is 22-year-old Ashleigh Hudson, who left aged 15 and became homeless, eventually moving to sheltered accommodation.
Ashleigh was offered a place at Gentoo’s supported accommodation, Holmewood, where she took advantage of the opportunities available and completed a Duke of Edinburgh bronze award.
Currently undertaking an apprenticeship with the group, she is now studying for an NVQ Level 2 in Business Administration.
Her enthusiasm and determination quickly impressed and last year she become involved in the North East ACE event in partnership with the National Housing Federation.
As part of this, apprentices were tasked with designing and implementing their own conference in celebration of their achievements.
It was during the event Ashleigh met Lottie Dexter, who is leading the Million Jobs Campaign in the UK.
So impressed was Lottie that she approached Gentoo and asked if Ashleigh would be free to act as the campaign’s North East representative.
Gentoo agreed and seconded Ashley for the work, which she is carrying out on top of her studies.
It has proved quite an experience - on her first day with the campaign she ending up meeting the Prime Minister at 10 Downing St to discuss youth unemployment.
Caroline Gitsham, director of Gentoo Living, the group’s social investment, independence and enterprise division said: “Young people are our future.
“Through our apprenticeship programmes, they are being given the opportunity to realise their expectations, improve their prospects and see exactly what exciting careers are available to them.
“At the same time as bringing fresh ideas for refreshing your business, the valuable experience they receive has a vast positive impact on their self esteem and their art of living.
“Young people provide a talented new workforce which will continue to contribute to the local economy for years to come, inspiring the generations which will follow them.
“If businesses across the region work together, we can make a huge difference to the young people of the North East and beyond.”
The Journal is campaigning alongside some of the region’s biggest firms to encourage a bigger take up of apprenticeships to solve a growing skills crisis.
Gentoo employs over 1,900 people and has an annual turnover of £175.2m.