LEADING industrialists from across the North East have put their weight behind The Journal's campaign to boost the number of apprenticeships in the region.
The newly-formed North East Skills Alliance for Advanced Manufacturing is aiming to almost double the number of apprentices recruited in the sector this year while also taking on more graduates and upskilling existing workforces.
It is part of the push to encourage more firms to take on apprentices launched by The Journal and the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) last week as 100 Days: The Apprenticeship Challenge.
The new alliance is made up of representatives from all 12 local authorities, champion employers, business membership organisations, training providers and the NAS, who have joined forces to speak with one voice on the issue.
It hopes to help the manufacturing sector to lead the region into a new era of economic growth and job creation.
They want to get the message across to employers – especially small and medium-sized firms – that there is unprecedented support, including funding, to help recruit and train young people as well as adult apprentices, and make the process of hiring apprentices as easy as possible.
Last year The Journal worked with NAS with the aim of getting 100 firms to take on 100 apprentices in 100 days. Within a few weeks the campaign, also backed by our Teesside-based sister title the Evening Gazette, was so successful we had to increase the target to 500. And when the 100 days were up we were able to report that 1,355 new apprenticeships had been created.
The North East Skills Alliance for Advanced Manufacturing is being co-ordinated by Semta, the sector skills council for science, engineering and manufacturing technologies.
Semta research shows around 8,500 skilled workers are due to retire in the next six years and a further 15,000 employees need to improve their skills to ensure the North East can continue to perform as a world-class region.
Lynn Tomkins, UK operations director of Semta, said: “There is nothing more important in the current economic climate for science, engineering and manufacturing companies than the recruitment of apprentices.
“Semta already works with employers in the region, large and small, who currently take on an apprentice but we recognise there is more to do. We need to get the word out that everybody should be investing.”
Apprenticeship start-ups are already 20% higher against the same period last year. The Alliance hopes events, one-to-one visits, business networks and mentoring, forging closer links with schools, colleges and universities and having one point of contact in each area will make it easier for firms to understand the benefits of apprenticeships and will lead to a big rise in time for the September intake.
Nissan, which this month announced it was investing £125m to bring a new model to its Washington plant that could create 2,000 jobs, is a champion of the aspirations for the region’s manufacturers.
Kevin Fitzpatrick, Nissan’s vice president for manufacturing in the UK, who chairs the Alliance, said: “The North East Skills Alliance is aiming to help companies in the North East understand the need to invest in our people.”
If you are an employer looking to recruit an apprentice or a young person interested in a career in science, engineering or manufacturing technologies contact 0845 643 9001 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
To find out more about the 100 Days Apprenticeship Challenge, recruiting apprentices or to see if you are eligible for the £1,500 Apprenticeship Grant for Employers call 08000 150 600 or visit www.apprenticeships.org.uk