Unfolding plans 20 – coming back to apprentices

I said I would come back to apprentices.  I’ll keep coming back to them throughout the year as they are important in so many ways. They are also the seventh thing I want to achieve this year.

According to the North-East Chamber of Commerce the region faces a “ticking time bomb” due to a lack of apprentices. The number of new apprenticeships in the region has fallen by about a fifth in two years and the fall in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and manufacturing) areas is most concerning.

ICT is one of those worrying areas and it has been an early ambition of Dynamo to develop the UK’s first ICT apprentice hubs here in the region.  The announcement was made last week that there will be two hubs, one in Sunderland and one in Newcastle, offering a fifteen-week ‘Rising Stars’ programme that prepares young adults for roles in ICT through an intensive skills training course with technical content.  Everyone who completes the course will be given the opportunity to then progress to a full-time year-long Level 3 apprenticeship with an ICT employer.  They will also be paid.

These hubs are focussed on the needs of the private sector ICT industry and the public sector also has a role to play.  The North East ICT Managers group has been working to bring in more ICT apprentices into our own areas which has been an interesting sell in these straightened times.  My own service currently has ten though one has just got himself a full time job elsewhere.

This is something to celebrate because while we have a role to play, guaranteeing work a couple of years from now is going to be difficult.  Our focus therefore needs to be on ensuring that those we take on are given as broad a range of experience as we can in order to build their CV to increase their chances of future employment.

A small group of us met to develop our own apprentice hub, focussed on the public sector but also the community and voluntary sectors.  We may also be able to involve small and medium size businesses.  The idea is to provide a mechanism whereby apprentices can work in part for the Council and in part for other organisations.  We would underwrite the positions.  This would hopefully increase the number of organisations who are able to get involved and at the same time spread the experience of those within the apprentice scheme.  Hopefully this will make them more work-ready and so stand a better chance of getting a job.

There are two models that we can go for, an apprenticeship training agency (ATA) as the host employer where we organise a framework for other people to use, or a shared apprenticeship scheme which brings together a group of like-minded organisations to deliver the service together.  Graham suggested that we start with the latter and it (when) it talks off we can morph into an ATA.

We’re going to look into the best option a bit more and develop a business case.  I’m talking about this to anyone who is interested and getting a lot of positive interest.  We may be onto something big.

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