Apprentice candidates 'not good enough' say Gateshead Council

A North East council has revealed that eh high standards demanded of new apprentices are not being met

Mike Wilkinson Angela Constance, Minister for Youth Employment with apprentice chef Peter Meechan
Angela Constance, Minister for Youth Employment with apprentice chef Peter Meechan

Apprentices are being turned away by employers because the standard of many would-be trainees simply isn’t good enough, a North East council has revealed.

Gateshead Council runs a weekly session for 16 to 24-year-olds where young people can find out if they have the right skills to join a business as an apprentice.

But the council, which in the last six months has provided 140 vacancies to apprentices in a variety of sectors, says many of the 1,400 applicants are not of the right calibre for the jobs on offer.

Now, more young people are beginning to consider apprenticeships – some of which are harder to secure than a place to study at Oxbridge – as a route to a high-flying career.

A Gateshead Council representative said: “Although we receive many applications, the standard of the candidates is not always high enough and young people do not always show the level of commitment needed, even at pre-interview stage, to be put forward for an apprenticeship.

“When we do get high-calibre candidates, these are often snapped up by employers and can make excellent employees.”

Apprenticeships are becoming an increasingly popular choice for school leavers, but can be highly competitive.

It might not be widely known, but some apprenticeship schemes are harder to get onto than courses at Oxbridge.

Councillor John McElroy, of Gateshead Council
Councillor John McElroy, of Gateshead Council

But for many young people who expect to achieve the highest grades, apprenticeships are not seen as the first-choice option. A large portion of young people’s parents still feel that university is the route for them to get a job and a career.

Gateshead Council is looking to increase the number of Gateshead businesses taking on apprentices, and to increase the number of residents becoming apprentices.

The council’s own training provider, LearningSkills, has set a target to sign up at least 30 new Gateshead employers each year, employing at least one new apprentice.

Coun John McElroy, deputy cabinet member for employment and skills, said: “Gateshead Council, along with our partners, is working with local businesses to increase the number of apprenticeship opportunities available for young people in Gateshead.

“Apprenticeships play a crucial role in helping businesses grow and develop the levels of expertise needed to resource our future industries.

“They are a great opportunity for people to gain experience and qualifications while earning a salary.

“Apprenticeships are becoming an increasingly popular choice for young people and with hard work and commitment, they can prove to be an excellent start on the career ladder.”

The projected annual salary for an entry level apprentice, aged 16, in the North East is £13,000, without any education debt.

For a construction apprentice that salary is more than £24,500.

For a graduate living away from home, with no Government grant, that annual average salary would be nearer £25,000, but after 30 years of repaying their student debt at the minimal level they would still owe between £30,649 and £64,935.

Bid to overcome skills gap and boost employment

The Journal launched a campaign last year to keep the North East working and to close the skills gap in the region.

The North East has a long and proud tradition of making things – but that reputation is under threat from a very real and growing skills gap.

The region needs to act now – and our campaign message needs to be heard and understood by young people, parents, schools, colleges, universities and graduates, as well as employers.

Some 8,500 skilled workers – 4,000 of them highly-skilled – in this region are due to retire in the next five years, with too few people on the employment conveyor belt to replace them.

Already, companies are having to turn away business because they don’t have enough skilled personnel to cope with more work.

With unemployment levels so high, that is a ridiculous situation that needs addressing urgently.

It is estimated that 27% of the 2,150 mainstream engineering companies in the region employ apprentices.

If the North East is to remain a world-class region for manufacturing, we need to see at least half of all companies in the sector recruiting new talent.

The principle aim of Proud To Back Apprenticeships is to achieve that 50% figure in the manufacturing sector.

All companies, no matter what sector they are in, need to understand that they risk losing out to competitors if they don’t invest in valuable apprenticeships.


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer