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Developing the right skills for industry is essential for delivering more apprenticeships

The number of apprenticeships in the North East is rising. They are increasingly recognised by businesses as a way to build a strong and skilled workforce, and more young people are looking to them as a way to start and develop their career.

However, we need to do more – currently only 18% of North East businesses employ an apprentice. With an objective to increase this to 30% by 2017 at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership we recognise that apprenticeships are central to delivering more and better jobs and improving skills.

This is why we are investing in pre-apprenticeship training and traineeships. Apprenticeships are not an easy option and with many still holding preconceived ideas about what an apprenticeship is, there are a limited number of high quality candidates applying for apprenticeships.

It is essential that those interested in apprenticeships have the opportunity to develop the right skills and work experience – especially for growth sectors. For example the IT sector is one of the regions largest employers, with a workforce of over 32,000. However there are currently 2,000 IT vacancies, and an IT skills gap that means there are not enough young people with the right skills to fill these and future proof the industry growth potential.

Working with Dynamo, the IT industry body in the North East, we are supporting sector focussed programmes for the IT industry. Dynamo has already created the first IT apprenticeship hub in partnership with Sunderland Software City and we are planning more hubs in other key locations across the area.

Charlie Hoult, Chair of Dynamo said: Investment in sector specific apprenticeships is critical. To maintain and maximise the growth and potential of these sectors we need to invest in the next generation. Through targeted sector initiatives, like the IT Apprenticeship Hub, we can make sure young people have the skills they need for these industries, growing North East businesses confidence in the standards and skills of apprenticeship candidates.”

North East businesses also have an important role to play – the experience they can give to future apprentices through work experience and traineeships is invaluable. This is why we are also delivering support to North East SMEs to help them identify opportunities and create new opportunities for young people, though a new partnership scheme – Generation NE.

The £4.5m scheme, which is led by a partnership of local authorities and the North East LEP, will provide dedicated support through a team of specialist business advisors, to businesses to help them offer work placements and traineeships.

Gill Southern, Co-Chair of our North East Business Support Board said: “Providing young people with work experience and skills development is essential. The local economy has great potential, but without the right workforce we won’t be able to achieve our ambitions for sustainable economic growth. SMEs are critical to providing these opportunities, and through schemes such as Generation NE we can ensure that they have the support they need to do this.”