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TO LEARN AND EARN; Apprenticeships could be part of the solution, reports Alex Turner: FOCUS... on apprentices.

Byline: Alex Turner

ALIVERPOOL training provider has 85 vacancies for apprentices and is looking for the right people to fill the roles.

Rob McNamara from Tithebarn Street-based Geason said: "Businesses are looking for young people to employ.

"We are not trying to sell you a person we have. Tell us about the opportunity you have and we will find the right person for you."

Rob says he is finding employers extremely receptive to the idea of taking on an apprentice, but the biggest challenge is making potential apprentices aware that it is not just about becoming, for example, a builder or electrician.

"There is a perception that apprenticeships are manual, but there are 190 different forms of apprenticeship," he said.

Post-16 prospects for school-leavers in terms of employment and higher education mean that apprenticeships are becoming more attractive, argues Rob.

He said: "The changes to funding for university means we are seeing a higher calibre of young people and we are seeing record levels of unemployment in graduates.

"Young people are as concerned about their careers as older people.

"They need guidance, they have ideas what they want to do but they need guidance as to how to turn that into a job."

Jayne Worthington, managing director of Wirral-based training provider Scientiam, said: "Apprenticeships have a long and proud history, but are definitely undergoing something of a muchneeded renaissance at the moment. "More young people are seeing apprenticeships as a credible way to develop a career. They are no longer seen as purely for those without the academic background to go to university.

"In a fragile economy, tuition fees are on the rise, more graduates than ever are struggling to find work and the Education Maintenance Allowance - given to around half of all 16 to 18-year-olds in full time education - is to be scrapped.

"There are so many sectors that now run apprenticeships and in many ways it is a much more practical and direct route into work than other options.

"Apprentices can earn while they learn and there is a strong need for talented young people to come through training 'oven ready' for the world of work.

"For businesses, apprenticeships are an efficient way to develop a loyal and skilled workforce."

Rob, from Geason, agrees: "Part of our discussion with employers is to explain that an apprentice is not just cheap labour.

"In the last couple of weeks out of 40 job opportunities we have turned down five because we didn't think they were suitable - they were business looking for cheap labour, but that's not what it's about.

"The reality, and what we are finding, is that businesses are preparing for growth. They see the worst economic days behind us but how do we prepare for growth without significant cost? "This is where the apprenticeship programme fits exactly where they are. It has a low front-end cost."

Hair and beauty training provider Michael John of Liverpool has been operating in the city for 30 years and was recently awarded the Training Quality Standard, with a specialism in hair and beauty - putting it in the top bracket of training providers.

Helen Eaton, Michael John's business development manager, believes that as employers look to grow in the future, apprentices offer good value for companies.

"Moving forward, if an employer has made redundancies or stopped recruiting, apprentices are the natural people to employ," she said.

"You can train them how you want, they are cheaper - it's a cost-effective way of employing staff. The employer employs that apprentice. They treat them just like any other member of staff, but they commit to provide them with a supportive environment and allowing them access to the training.

"The big thing for employers is the apprenticeship wage. There's no subsidy - contrary to what people think - but there is an apprenticeship rate for the minimum wage, which is pounds 2.50 an hour in their first year of the apprenticeship, no matter how old they are."

Apprenticeships are also popular with large companies locally. Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) is to put its 1,500 new recruits at Halewood through an intermediate apprenticeship scheme, while Warrington-based United Utilities is also looking to use apprenticeships to develop new recruits. It is looking to enrol up to 40 apprentices each year until 2015.

Business Secretary Vince Cable has this week urged employers to help create 100,000 more apprentices by 2014.

CAPTION(S):

RENAISSANCE: JayneWorthington HIGH HOPES: Rob McNamara, from Geason in Liverpool CUTTING EDGE: A hairdressing apprentice learns by doing at Michael John of Liverpool's Duke Street salon
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Feb 9, 2011
Words:759
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