This week is National Apprenticeship week – a chance for businesses to find out how taking on apprentices can benefit their business, for young people looking for an alternative to mainstream education to find out how to get paid to train.
To kick the week off, David Way, chief executive officer of the National Apprenticeship Service, visited apprentices at the Network Rail training school within HMS Sultan in Gosport.
‘I saw Network Rail at a speakers’ conference and I wanted to see if what they were doing was as good as they said it was.
‘They want to grow their own employees, so to speak, and this is a great way to take someone and mould them in a way that’ll be very productive for their own business, and employ them for many years to come.
‘Getting an apprenticeship gets young people right in there, it just gives them a fantastic start.’
Mr Way said he was impressed by the Network Rail facilities, which allow apprentices to work on track in all weather conditions – even in the snow – to get as close an experience to working on real railway lines as possible.
‘I thought it was excellent,’ Mr Way added.
He said: ‘What these companies are doing with their schools is saying to young people that they are investing in their future, they’re helping them become productive.
‘There’s a real appetite for young people to do something like this.
‘Primarily we’re seeing apprenticeships as being a bridge between school and the world of work.
‘It’s ideal for those who might not have found their way in school.
‘What I saw at Network Rail was a group of people who are incredibly motivated and who appreciate the opportunity they’re being given.
‘But also what struck me was how much they felt they had grown as people.
‘They felt they had become more confident and mature, and able to achieve more than they thought.’
Apprenticeships aren’t just for those aged between 16 and 24, though the government is pushing roles for younger people in order to try and reduce youth unemployment levels.
Anyone of any age can do an apprenticeship and retrain in a different career – and every vacancy is advertised on the National Apprenticeship Service’s website.
And there is funding available to employers outside of government grants to help older people learn through work.
Mr Way is urging any company that is thinking about taking on an apprentice to get in touch to find out more. He said: ‘In the first instance I want them to call the NAS, because this is what we’re here for.
‘We’ll just help employers get into it and we’ll be able to help access funding for training costs as well.
‘That’s why we were set up in the first instance, to try and make it easier for employers to get apprentices in.’
To find out more, see apprentices.co.uk or call the team on 0800 0150 600.
How to get funding
IF you employ less than 250 members of staff, have not taken on an apprentice for the last three years and are looking for an apprentice who is 16 to 24 years old then you are eligible for the £1,500 government grant.
What’s important to bear in mind is that the grant is paid over two instalments: £750 is paid when the apprentice has completed week eight of their apprenticeship and the final instalment is paid on completion of the programme - which is usually a year.
And while that grant is only available to young apprentices, costs of training can be partially met by the National Apprenticeship Service.