How apprenticeships boost young people’s employment prospects in Harrogate

bus  Lee Evans at Vital Technology Group.  090202M1a.
bus Lee Evans at Vital Technology Group. 090202M1a.

For millions of students across the country, concluding their studies at high school or college will conjure up feelings of relief, freedom and happiness but for others, finishing their studies elicits a feeling of great uncertainty.

The latest Government figures released in June revealed that there were 853,000 young people aged 16-24 who were unemployed in February to April.

However, unemployment figures for young people in Harrogate and Knaresborough are competitively low and the secret behind this may lie in apprenticeships.

Local MP Andrew Jones recently revealed during Prime Minister’s Questions that the number of young people unemployed in the constituency stood at just 50 people.

As well as praising businesses in Harrogate for this low number, Mr Jones stressed the important role of apprenticeships in offering young people a route into employment.

There were 1460 apprenticeships starting in the Harrogate and Knaresborough constituency in the last full year, which was the third highest in Yorkshire and the Humber.

Mr. Jones praised the distribution of apprenticeships over a wide variety of sectors and highlighted the especial importance of apprenticeships in I.T and Communications.

He said: ““As the Apprenticeship Ambassador in Parliament it has been great to see more and more apprentices gaining hands-on experience of the workplace.

“Many of these are taken on by the company with which they did their apprenticeship; all have gained invaluable experience. In our area – and across the country - employment is increasing and apprenticeships are an important factor in this.

“In this constituency, 630 workplaces are now employing an apprentice - that’s up from 480 two years ago.

“Apprenticeships are a fantastic thing, giving employment and skills, so that young people can earn as they learn. It’s all part of addressing the skills gap.”

The MP ‘s call for a greater promotion of apprenticeships was heeded by Parliament as George Osborne revealed in March that the government were doubling the amount of them as well as extending the grants for smaller businesses to support over 100,000 more.

Harrogate College have been heavily involved with apprenticeships and 34 employers have taken on apprentices via the college since 1 September 2013.

Harrogate Borough Council has been utilising the apprenticeship scheme for some time already, helping local employers to create 40 new availabilities and launching its own scheme at the start of the year.

The Council’s help has led to an increase of apprenticeship opportunities within Harrogate and Knaresborough businesses and companies are already realising the mutual benefit of the scheme.

Yorkshire Housing took on four apprentices to start work in the social housing sector and Harrogate’s The Pantry restaurant recruited two apprentices to work in the kitchen whilst gaining professional qualifications.

Vital Technology group, a thriving Knaresborough business, has taken on nine apprentices since the company was formed in 2006.

There are currently two apprentices working for Vital and Lee Evans, Managing Director, said that the apprentices, past and present, had become a great benefit to the business.

He said: “I would say the apprentices have been critical to the growth of our business. They’re cost effective and it’s good for them to find early, well-paid, employment.”

Apprenticeships have come under scrutiny after a report was published by Dr Martin Allen and Professor Patrick Ainley from the University of Greenwich criticising their worth.

The report criticised the fact there is often no guarantee that the apprenticeship will secure a permanent job or higher training and some lack the sufficient quality to be a real alternative to university.

While Mr Evans was aware that these apprenticeships did exist, he stressed this was not the case at Vital and there were always job opportunities to be had.

He said: “I am aware of problems like these associated with some apprenticeships but I don’t think that the criticism applies much for our industry.

“Apprentices come to us as a burden but we train them properly, support them with their work and studies and it’s only after about three months that they get the hang of the job.

“You could not get a job at this company without the necessary experience gained from an apprenticeship like this.

“So in that respect, it is more useful than actually going to university and getting a degree.”