New scheme bids to boost levels of North East apprentices

The North East Chamber of Commerce is launching a 100 Days Apprenticeship Challenge to tackle a skills shortage in the region

Vickie English and Ben Creke help launch the 100 Days Apprenticeship Challenge
Vickie English and Ben Creke help launch the 100 Days Apprenticeship Challenge

A bold new scheme unveiled today bids to encourage North East employers to take on more apprentices and tackle a skills shortage.

The North East Chamber of Commerce (NECC) has launched a 100 Days Apprenticeship Challenge in partnership with The National Apprenticeship Service and 28 local colleges and training providers.

And through the scheme they are challenging local businesses to increase the number of apprenticeships in the North East over the next 100 days.

More than 35,000 people started a qualification last year but it is hoped the 2014 challenge will see more local businesses get involved to develop apprentices vital to the region’s economy.

Skills shortages and recruitment difficulties have been raised as concerns in NECC’s Quarterly Economic Survey as the recovery has gathered pace.

Apprenticeships offer a route to the fresh talent businesses need, ensuring they have staff with the valuable skills and qualifications they require now and in the future.

NECC chief executive James Ramsbotham said: “With the recovery now accelerating, more firms need to grow their capacity to take advantage of new business opportunities and we can’t meet the demand for skilled staff from within the region’s labour force. It is great to see so many North East businesses responding to this by growing their investment in apprenticeships and our own training team is seeing more and more firms recognise the importance of doing so.

“As the economy grows, it is not only an opportune time to make this investment, it is becoming increasingly urgent to fulfil the potential among our region’s businesses and people.”

The 100 Days Apprenticeship Challenge, which runs from today until July 8, encourages investment in training for new recruits and existing staff.

NECC member Caterpillar, based in Peterlee, County Durham, is embarking on further investment in apprenticeships as the first business to pledge its support to the Challenge.

Caterpillar, which currently has 33 apprentices, will be recruiting more young people to roles across the organisation, from fabrication to paint and auto-electrical.

Caterpillar Peterlee is the only site in the world that manufactures Caterpillar trucks, which are exported from Peterlee to the US and across the globe.

Chief executive Phil Handley, who began his career as an apprentice, said: “Apprenticeships are critical to the sustainability of all of our futures.

“At Caterpillar, we operate on a global scale – 95% of what we produce is exported overseas. We need skills, knowledge and energy to compete and apprentices bring that. Investing in apprentices is a key part of our recruitment and development strategy and an ongoing focus for us. It’s a cycle that never ends.”

Anthony Knowles, head of employer accounts for the National Apprenticeship Service, said: “The support of local businesses is vital if we are going to grow the skills base of our regional economy.

“It will provide some much needed new opportunities for young people and by agreeing to take on an apprentice, employers are not only supporting their local community but they are also making a good business decision to grow their own talented workforce.”

Last year The Journal launched a campaign to keep the North East working. Proud to Back Apprenticeships is being run in partnership with our colleagues on the Evening Gazette in Tesside.

We called for more companies investing in training for the future. Recent figures showed that the number of apprenticeships in the North East is failing to keep pace with the demand from young people.

More information about the 100 Days Apprenticeship Challenge can be found on the campaign website at www.apprenticeshipchallenge.co.uk

Journalists

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