Council celebrates success of apprenticeship scheme

Kirklees Council in West Yorkshire is celebrating the success of its first horticulture apprenticeship scheme, launched in partnership with Bishop Burton College two years ago to attract young people to the industry.

As well as receiving theoretical training and mentoring at college, students complete a programme of work in the council's nurseries, golf courses, parks and open spaces.

Nine out of an original 10 apprentices are due to achieve their NVQ level 2 qualification this April and the scheme's success has secured grant funding to enable the council to run the programme a second time while increasing intake to accept mature students.

According to figures published by the Office for National Statistics this month, one in five 16-24-year-olds in the UK is now unemployed. The overall amount of those out of work across the UK is 7.2 per cent. Among 16-24-year-olds, the number of people out of work is at 20.3 per cent.

Kirklees Council training coordinator for the scheme Steve Taylor said the course was helping to address unemployment levels as well as a skills shortage.

"This gives people an opportunity to try a career in horticulture. There is a definite skills gap in this industry where perhaps there hasn't been enough investment in the past and by bringing in new people we are injecting enthusiasm into the sector," he said.

"In Kirklees, like in many areas, unemployment is quite high. We have a duty to help young people develop a career and give them what, for many, will be the first qualification they have gained."

Last week, further education, skills and lifelong learning minister John Hayes announced that the Government is to increase annual funding for adult apprenticeships by up to £250m above the £398m-a-year funding inherited from the last Government by 2014-15.

It is also reforming its strategy to deliver 75,000 more apprenticeship places at advanced level and above.

- For information on funds available to employers for supporting apprenticeship schemes, see land-based skills sector body Lantra's website at www.lantra.co.uk/fund-finder. To find out more about apprenticeships, see www.lantra.co.uk/apprenticeship-week-2011.


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