The South West has the highest apprenticeship success rates in the UK, well above the national average of 71.7%. Yet there are over 1,800 apprenticeship vacancies across Devon and Cornwall, with more than 10% of these are being advertised by Plymouth-based apprenticeship training provider Skills Group.
Local employers are crying out for young people to join them as they grow their businesses and look to the future. One employer, who has been working with Skills Group to offer a local young person an opening in her business, is Sandy Lush, the franchise owner of Marchand Petit in Millbrook, South East Cornwall.
When a member of her team left the business in early 2013, Sandy approached Skills Group with a view to replacing the position with an administration apprentice. Sandy said: “It was important to me to be able to offer a local young person a local opportunity, and offering an apprenticeship seemed a great way of giving something back.”
Meanwhile Olivia Appleby was on a gap year trying to earn some money before heading off to university in London to pursue her dream of becoming a dancer. However, after a few pay packets she realised that she quite liked having some money in her pocket and decided to look at other options.
Olivia, now 21 of Torpoint, came to Skills Group wanting to do something with business. After talking through a selection of vacancies, she was put forward to Marchand Petit that very day and offered the post. Sandy said: “Working with Skills Group I was impressed with how easy the process of taking on an apprentice was. Obviously part of this is about the young people who are put forward – and I know I have been very fortunate.
“Having said that, I believe that with any apprenticeship, as long as you’re prepared to invest the time and effort, you will get a fantastic return. By giving Olivia responsibility for her own areas of work, she has risen to the challenge, grown in confidence and been eager to take on more!”
When asked about why an apprenticeship had appealed, Olivia said: “The thought of building up a large debt and not necessarily being able to walk straight into a job scared me. When I looked at the alternatives the apprenticeship route interested me because I’d be getting a real experience. I would have a job and be earning, and I’m getting my qualifications and learning in a way I find much easier.”
Mark Boulting, Skills Group’s Managing Director, said: “The government has set a target of 3million apprenticeship starts during their time in office, and while year-on-year apprenticeship starts are creeping up, they are nowhere near the level they need to be if we are to meet this number.
“At Skills Group, we have over 180 vacancies across Devon and Cornwall, and as quickly as we fill these we receive further vacancies to recruit for. As Sandy has already said, employers know the value of apprenticeships. However they are becoming increasingly frustrated with the difficulties we are experiencing in finding suitable candidates to fill them.
“We’re currently working with Ivybridge Community College to bring their pupils into our training centres for taster sessions, where they will find out more. But we need more local schools willing to let us in to talk about the fantastic opportunities apprenticeships can offer.”
Skills Group provides apprenticeship training for business administration, care and early years, construction, engineering and automotive, hairdressing, sport and leisure, and teaching and education. The provider currently has over 180 vacancies across Devon and Cornwall, which can be seen on its dedicated recruitment website, www.apprenticeships4me.com.
Picture shows Olivia Appleby, Marchand Petit Administrator & Trainee Sales Negotiator.