Government urged to secure future of Tees Valley apprenticeship scheme (From The Northern Echo)
Government urged to secure future of Tees Valley apprenticeship scheme
MINISTERS will decide later this month if a scheme that’s kick-started careers for hundreds of Tees Valley youngsters gets a cash injection to secure its future.
After putting their case to Skills Minister John Hayes in Westminster a delegation of the regions business and political leaders voiced hopes that the Tees Valley Apprenticeship Programme (TVAP) will survive and have an even bigger impact region-wide.
The TVAP, which runs out of cash at the end of this month, (March 2012) has been credited with creating and safeguarding almost 300 apprenticeships in the area over the last two years at a cost to the taxpayer of about £1.8m.
Mr Hayes heard how a further injection of a similar amount of public money will allow the scheme to be extended across the wider North- East, and also to become self-sustaining in two years time.
The employer-led TVAP is managed through the National Skills Academy for the Process Industries (NSAPI), which is based in Darlington. It led to 134 Tees Valley employers being persuaded to take on apprentices. Those involved included high profile businesses in the chemicals industries, as well as 80 small and medium-sized companies, including Cordell, CA Pumps Limited and Intellect UK, 43 of whom had never taken on an apprentice before.
TVAP chairman George Ritchie, senior vice president for human resources with Sembcorp Industries and chair of the North-East regional ambassadors of the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) led the delegation to London.
The party included representatives from the process sector: Dr Stan Higgins, chief executive of NEPIC, and Ian Mains, business development director of NSAPI, alongside Allan Wallace, employer services director of NAS and Heather Smithson of NSAPI who is also project director of TVAP.
They were supported at the meeting by a cross party delegation of local MPs who set aside political rivalries to hail the success of the apprenticeship programme.
Hartlepool MP Iain Wright, Labour’s Shadow Business Minister, led the politicians who included Redcar Lib Dem Ian Swales, Middlesbrough South and East Clevelands Tom Blenkinsop and Stockton Norths Alex Cunningham; both Labour MPs.
Mr Hayes told the delegates they should hear within the next five weeks whether their bid for additional funding had been successful.
Mr Ritchie said: “The Minister was very gracious with his time and he and his team listened intently to what we had to say. He was clearly extremely impressed with the success of the scheme in an area where jobs creation is absolutely vital and we showed him how this fits the Governments agenda on apprenticeships perfectly.
“The thrust of our case was that there is a real opportunity to build on TVAPs success and firmly cement the idea into employers minds that apprenticeships like this, which give young people fantastic skills, are producing people who have the ability to grow their businesses. “Many of those on the TVAP scheme have now been taken on as full time employees by their sponsoring companies because they are bringing real value to those businesses.
“That message is particularly important for those employers who perhaps dont have access to the support resources that bigger businesses have or the same confidence to take on an apprentice.
“The smaller and medium-sized firms who have engaged in this process have in fact become the best ambassadors for apprenticeships, particularly those who have never had an apprentice before, and we know they can be extremely influential over the next few years in persuading others throughout the wider region to display the same faith in our young people as we have in the Tees Valley.”
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