Crowds flock to hear about opportunities
HUNDREDS of young people from across Devon learned about a wide variety of work-based training opportunities at an event in Exeter.
The apprenticeships, skills and employment fair at Sandy Park was one of the highlights of National Apprenticeship Week in the city. Employers including Flybe, Michelmores, Cosmic, Interserve and South West Media Group were among those on hand to speak to students.
The day, organised by Devon County Council, featured demonstrations of cooking skills from River Cottage and hairdressing by Skills Group UK. There were also workshops for teachers led by the National Apprenticeship Service and Education + Training Skills.
Organisers were delighted that around a dozen employers who attended a business breakfast signed up on the day to hire an apprentice, earning themselves an additional £500 from Devon County Council on top of the £1,500 incentive available for taking on an apprentice.
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Speakers from Serco, ETS and others explained why hiring apprentices makes good business sense. County council leader John Hart said the authority was reaping the benefits of employing its own apprentices.
"It's to our advantage to get young people in, train them and bring them on," he said. "And it's to the advantage of the county that we raise the skills and aspirations of the young people of Devon – that's what today is about. As we go forward, if every small business employed an apprentice, the number of people unemployed in Devon would be zero."
Howard Stamp, 20, spoke about his experience as a business administration apprentice with NHS Devon, working in the patient safety team based at County Hall in Exeter.
He said: "My experience has been excellent. All my teachers said I should go to university and do this course or that course, but I didn't know which course or where I wanted to go, so I decided to do an apprenticeship."
After just 12 months, Howard completed his Level 3 apprenticeship and has now moved on to the Level 4 qualification.
"Hopefully I will complete that in the next couple of years or so," he said. "I've gained a lot more experience of high-level things than I was expecting. My apprenticeship was one of the best experiences I have had. I'm continuing to learn and develop as a person and it helps to build confidence."
Many training providers were there to talk to students and teachers, while employers including South West Water provided hands-on demonstrations of the types of skills apprentices can expect to learn.
Richard Jenkins, apprenticeship manager at the Commando Training Centre in Lympstone, said: "There turned out to be a large number of youngsters who had a passing interest in what apprenticeships HM Forces had to offer and, although we were not there for recruiting purposes, a small number of those we spoke to were reconsidering their future education and career pathways.
"Good productive conversation was also had with a number of college and Careers South West representatives. The day appeared to be a great success for all involved, specifically giving learners, colleges and career advisors visibility of our apprenticeship provision and other progressive educational and career opportunities which I am sure will be of benefit to all in the immediate future."
Alistair Hodgson, vocational programme co-ordinator at Okehampton College, said: "The feedback from my post-16 students has been very positive. They all felt it was really useful and some have expressed how it has boosted their confidence and empowered them to approach their current work placement employer to discuss taking them on as apprentices.
"From my perspective, it was useful to engage with training providers."
Reflecting on the event, Councillor Hart said: "I'm delighted so many companies are interested in taking on an apprentice. It was great to see the wide variety of organisations represented as well as the young people all very keen to learn more about apprenticeships.
"I would also like to thank the schools for bringing their students. This was a very successful event for everybody."