By Owen McAteer, The Northern Echo
February 7th 2012

Small firms given funding incentive to take on apprentices

As our campaign to boost the job prospects of the...

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Small firms given funding incentive to take on apprentices

By Owen McAteer, The Northern Echo
February 7th 2012

As our campaign to boost the job prospects of the under-25s in the North-East gathers pace the Prime Minister has today given a shot in the arm to small firms in the region looking to take on apprentices.

David Cameron, who last night described the Northern Echo's Foundation for Jobs campaign as a "brilliant initiative", announced that small firms will be offered an incentive of £1,500 to take on their first apprentices.

Thousands of employers with up to 50 workers that don't currently hire apprentices will be encouraged to take on a youngster aged 16 to 24.

An initial payment will be made two months after the individual has started their apprenticeship with the balance paid after the apprenticeship has been completed and the trainee has progressed into sustainable employment.

In Darlington borough alone, more than 1,000 young people aged under 25 are presently claiming jobseekers' allowance.

One of the key aims of the Northern Echo's Foundation for Jobs campaign, launched two weeks ago, and backed by Darlington Partnership, is to create at least 100 apprenticeship places at firms in the borough.

Firms of all sizes across all sectors are expected to play a role in achieving this target and Mr Cameron said Foundation for Jobs was "just the kind of thing" needed to give young people the skills, training and opportunities to succeed.

The foundation also aims to create at least 100 internships at firms in the borough, inspire youngsters to develop entrepreneurial skills and

provide 1,000 young people with the chance to establish formal links with local companies.

The campaign has been launched initially in Darlington with a view to being extended across the region.

The incentive payment, which will support up to 20,000 new apprenticeships in its first year is part of a package of new funding unveiled by the Government today to mark National Apprenticeship Week.

Mr Cameron said: "I'm delighted to underline our commitment to strengthen our economy by helping employers take on apprentices and ensure that the UK workforce has the skills that businesses need.

"By making apprenticeships a gold standard option for ambitious young people, we are sending a message that technical excellence is as highly valued as academic prowess.

"And by focusing investment where it is most needed to deliver sustainable growth and offering real ownership of vocational training to employers, we are equipping businesses with the skills they need to rebalance our economy and distribute opportunity more widely."

Skills Minister John Hayes added: "Our mission is to put practical training on a level playing field with academic study, creating a highly skilled, creative workforce that can take on the best in the world."

Greggs' chief executive Ken McMeikan said it was important that firms in the region knew there was funding available to take on apprentices.

He said: "We have to get the message across that there is funding support available and make sure businesses provide these opportunities and placements.

"There is a danger that ignorance leads to low take-up. There is education to be done that funding is available and can provide opportunities for people here in the North-East."

Other new Government funding includes £6m for a second round of the Higher Apprenticeship Fund to support the development of thousands of new Higher Apprenticeships in sectors including aerospace, energy and renewable technologies.

The Prime Minister also opened the bidding for the new Employer Ownership pilot, announced last November, which will offer up to £250m to employers in England to develop their own tailored skills training in co-operation with trade unions, colleges and training providers.

Funding for the first year will be up to £50m, with an additional £200m in the second year, subject to evidence of high-quality proposals from employers.

According to the National Audit Office, every £1 of public investment in apprenticeships delivers a return of £18 to the wider economy.

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