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Campaign urges firms to consider apprentices

Two newspapers in the North East have launched a campaign to encourage more businesses to take on apprentices.

The Proud To Back Apprenticeships scheme is being run by The Journal in Newcastle and the Middlesbrough Evening Gazette. Aimed at businesses of all sizes that currently don’t recruit apprentices, the campaign is working with companies that do, to showcase the benefits apprentices can bring.

The campaign plans to tackle the skills gap in the North East, where around 8,500 trades people, engineers and other skilled workers are due to reach retirement age in the next five years. There are not enough skilled people ready to replace them and firms are already turning away work because they do not have the capacity to take it on.

The Evening Gazette said: “With unemployment levels so high, that is a ridiculous situation that needs addressing urgently.

“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 apprenticeships as well as up-skilling and re-skilling their workforce.”

The campaign is using statistics from the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS), to demonstrate the value of apprentices. NAS figures show 92 per cent of businesses with an apprenticeship programme said they had better motivated staff, while almost three-quarters believed apprentices were more likely to stay with their business rather than take their skills to benefit rival firms.

Schools as well as businesses are being targeted and urged to encourage more young people to consider apprenticeships as an alternative to university. Employers contacted by the campaign talked about ‘educational snobbery’ in schools that meant students were encouraged into higher education rather than shown the benefits of vocational qualifications where they can earn while they learn.

“Youth unemployment is high, yet employers find vacancies difficult to fill - if ever there was a time to bring education and industry together then this is it,” said the Gazette.