By Martin Walker
A Newton Aycliffe training provider is aiming to tackle the skills shortage head-on with an ambitious new plan for businesses.
South West Durham Training (SWDT), based on Aycliffe Business Park, is offering a range of incentives designed to make taking on Apprentices as easy as possible.
SWDT has been carrying out extensive research over the last year, speaking to employers and industry experts, to come up with succession plans which will enable firms to future-proof their businesses.
The training outfit is now planning a high-profile Employer Pledge event, to be held at its premises on Tuesday 8th July, which will involve firms showing their commitment to Apprenticeships by signing a pledge.
In return, SWDT is offering to look after the paperwork, provide mentors and even help source funding to simplify taking on young recruits.
Keynote speakers at the event will include people from Department of Business Innovation and Skills, The Bank of England and Business Durham, plus a panel of business leaders.
SWDT’s Chief Executive Officer Trevor Alley (pictured, above) – a part-time Ofsted inspector who boasts a wealth of experience in both education and engineering – said: “Firstly we know there’s a need for more Apprenticeships generally, and that’s a national problem.
“We know there are job shortages already in engineering in this area, and because we’re positioned where we are, we think we can be key in the regeneration of skills in this area, and that’s best done with Apprenticeships.
“We’re inviting employers to come in. We’ll ask those interested to sign a pledge, which is a commitment from them to supply Apprenticeships.
“In return, we’re looking to be a one-stop-shop for businesses. We can put them in touch with the funding organisations that will be able to supply grants towards Apprenticeships.
“We have people on site who can advise on the range of funding that’s available and we’ll complete the funding paperwork for them.
“We have learners ready to go into Apprenticeships, so employers will have a chance to look at the learners, they can talk to them and interview them. If they want to, they can take learners on job trials. They could even take half a dozen learners on trial and pick the best ones.
“For those who haven’t taken on Apprentices before we can provide employers with mentors to help look after the Apprentices which will help with their transition into their workplace.
“In return for taking on Apprentices, we’re also offering employers reduced rates for any commercial work that we provide.
“When we talked to employers they cited the above reasons for them not employing apprentices- these are the barriers that have hindered them. We’re offering firms help to overcome those barriers.“
There are proven benefits from taking on Apprentices. Independent research shows businesses get improved products or services, new ideas being introduced to the organisation, higher staff morale and loyalty by recruiting young staff.
Statistics provided by the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) also claim 96% of employers that take on an Apprentices report benefits to their business, and 72% of businesses report improved productivity.
Trevor added: “There are tangible benefits from taking on Apprentices and we just want to give businesses in this area as much information as possible.
“As the skills shortage looms, we have to ask ourselves ‘what are employers doing to future-proof the skills within their organisations?’. Apprentices are a solution to that.“
SWDT aims to hold the Employer Pledge event annually, with the aim of getting 50 businesses to sign up to the pledge every year.