Business group and college aim to change views on apprenticeships

A North East college has joined forces with the region’s largest business network in a bid to change commonly held misconceptions about apprenticeships.

Gateshead College and the North East England Chamber of Commerce are concerned that some employers don’t place enough value on this form of training, even though apprenticeships provide a typical return of £26-28 for each pound invested. *

The two organisations are now on mission to encourage more companies to take on an apprentice – and to explode the myth that apprenticeships don’t offer tangible benefits to employers or trainees.

Official figures show that 83% of apprentices believe the training has improved their career prospects, while 70% of employers say apprenticeships have helped to boost the quality of their product or service. *

Ivan Jepson, director of business development at Gateshead College, said: “Despite numerous apprentice success stories in recent years, there’s still a perception in some quarters that apprenticeships are a second-rate option for people who aren’t good enough to go to university. Nothing could be further from the truth.

“There’s also a myth that this form of training has little value for the employer but this isn’t backed up by government statistics. Together with the Chamber we’re determined to bang the drum for apprenticeships because they’re a great way for industry to plug skills gaps and become more productive.”

Gateshead College delivers apprenticeship training with more than 400 companies around the region, including large multi-nationals and SMEs. Chairman of the organisation, Robin Mackie, began his career as an engineering apprentice before rapidly ascending the career ladder to drive the growth of several high-profile engineering and manufacturing businesses. He currently runs a consultancy that provides specialist advice, investment and support for start-ups.

Meanwhile, Chamber president Mike Matthews started his working life as a toolmaking apprentice and made his way from the shop floor to the top job at Teesside-based car parts manufacturer Nifco UK in 2008. Since then he has led the rapid growth of the company and, as well as playing a key role in the development of the North East Skills Alliance for Advanced Manufacturing, has forged strong links with schools, colleges and universities across the region.

Mr Matthews, who was awarded an MBE for services to North East business in 2014, said: “Robin and I are living proof that apprenticeships can add demonstrable value to a business and provide a springboard to a rewarding career. The region needs to speak with one voice on this very important issue and that’s why the Chamber is partnering with Gateshead College, a top-class vocational training provider, to get the message across to employers, prospective apprentices, parents and school teachers.

“We all need to continue to drive up the quality of apprenticeship training and ensure that anyone completing an apprenticeship is fully competent in their occupation. We must also showcase and celebrate our apprentice success stories.

“If we continue to do all of this, I’m convinced that more employers will recognise the value of apprenticeships and there will be fewer misconceptions and untruths surrounding the issue.

* Figures from the Department of Education. *

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