Launch of agency for apprentices

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CIVIC leaders hope the new Apprenticeship Training Agency will create hundreds of careers for young people in West Yorkshire.

Leeds City Council and Leeds City College want the agency to match “talented, focused” apprentices with local businesses which want to expand their workforces.

The agency will work with businesses to identify their needs and then find and recruit apprentices. Backers say it will remove some of the risks and barriers which have discouraged many of the city’s smaller businesses from creating apprenticeships.

Council leader Keith Wakefield said: “All the evidence shows that public spending on apprenticeships produces an excellent economic return.

“As it is SMEs that will drive our local and regional economy forward, it makes sense for SMEs to reap the rewards of taking on talented, enthusiastic apprentices.

“The agency will help make that a reality.”

He said that the scheme, which is backed by businesses including Leeds Building Society and Town Centre Securities, will benefit employers and help tackle the “persistent challenge” of youth unemployment.

Meanwhile, entrepreneur Doug Richard has called on the Government to help improve the quality of apprenticeship schemes and said they need to have “serious kudos and tangible value” for both the apprentice and the employer. The angel investor added: “I want to hear about an 18 year-old who looked at their options and turned down a place at Oxbridge to take up an apprenticeship if that is the right path for them.”