The comments follow the publication of a paper from West Yorkshire Combined Authority officers which found that the number of people taking up apprenticeships in the Leeds City Region had decreased by a quarter in just one year.
The paper reported that there were just 22,250 apprenticeship starts during the 2017/18 academic year – a fall of 7,970 from the previous year. It is believed the decline may be linked to the transitional effects of the introduction of Government reforms to the apprenticeship system in 2017.
Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership has now launched a new employment hub to help address staff shortages in the region. The free programme aims to engage more than 6,000 young people over three years. It will provide them with support to get them into further learning, self-employment, employment or an apprenticeship.
Roger Marsh OBE, chair of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership, said: “The Employment Hub will further improve career prospects for so many young people in the city region and the businesses that support them will see the significant benefits of investing in new talent which, in turn, boosts economic growth.
“Our city region has a working age population of 1.9 million people, making it the North’s largest and fastest-growing region. We also have the youngest population in the country and Bradford alone has more under 15s than anywhere else – a huge future talented workforce.”
His comments come as the build-up continues to the Yorkshire Fastest 50, the annual run-down of the fastest-growing privately owned companies in Yorkshire.
Craig Such, managing director of business technology solutions provider Azzure IT, which has made the Yorkshire Fastest 50 list for the third year in a row, believes investing in talent through apprenticeships is critical for his business.
He said: “As we work in a quite niche market, the skills required to work for a company like ours are very specialist. This means that investing in youth and training people through apprenticeships is really important.
“We have a long history of running apprenticeship qualifications at Azzure, and currently have two apprentices working in different departments within the business. We also have a full-time staff member in our team who completed their Azzure apprenticeship last year.”
Luke Sidebottom, an Azzure IT apprentice, said: “I would recommend an apprenticeship to anyone looking for a first-time job and looking to gain a wide range of different skills and experiences.”
Frank Suttie, a commercial partner at Ward Hadaway, who advises the education and skills sector, said: “Where businesses find it difficult to drive growth, looking to increase the quality and future proofing of the skill base in the business through apprenticeship programmes can make a difference.
He added: “Apprenticeships present just as good a route into a valuable career as a university degree and they must be encouraged. Training achieved through apprenticeships contribute significantly to business growth.”
The Ward Hadaway Yorkshire Fastest 50 2019 will take place at Aspire in Leeds on Friday.
This is the ninth time that the Fastest 50 has taken place, and the event has become a firm fixture in the region’s business calendar.
Awards will be given to the fastest growing small, medium and large business.
One of these three winners will be named as the overall fastest growing Yorkshire business for 2019.
A special supplement about the Yorkshire Fastest 50 awards 2019 will be published in The Yorkshire Post on Tuesday March 26.