Apprenticeships are becoming an increasingly popular way for businesses to overcome current recruitment challenges in the local economy, according to Telford College.
The college’s employer engagement team is now working with around 300 local employers, sourcing and training apprentices from entry level all the way up to degree level.
It’s National Apprenticeship Week from February 6-10, and the college is showcasing many of the successful partnerships it has built up with the local business community.
Telford College’s principal and chief executive Graham Guest – a former apprentice himself – said: “Apprenticeships are real jobs – a chance to gain valuable qualifications alongside real-world work experience.
“With an apprenticeship, you’re on a clear career route. There’s a plan in place and a pathway for you to take – and you’ll earn your salary from your very first day on the job.
“But they do still have something of an image problem among people who don’t appreciate just how much they’ve evolved, and how diverse they have become.
“These days it’s possible to do an apprenticeship in pretty much anything, at any age, from entry level all the way up to university-level.”
Some of Shropshire’s biggest and best-known businesses are currently partnered with Telford College to recruit and train apprentices.
They include former Shropshire Company of the Year McPhillips of Telford, Market Drayton’s two biggest employers Muller and Palethorpes, and Wenlock Spring from Church Stretton.
Law firm Hatchers, Kraft Heinz, Balfour Beatty, Avara Foods, Iconsys (pictured), packaging business Sirane, Bespoke Computing, Kier Highways, Breedon Aggregates, food processor Pickstock, and telecoms company Connexis are just some of the others.
Telford College business development manager Chris Field said: “Some of the companies we work with may have initially just taken on one apprentice to test the water – but others have employed multiple apprentices over a number of years.
“There is a proven pathway for our apprentices to progress within a company once their training in complete. At Cargo Contract Logistics in Telford, for example, another apprenticeship opportunity has just opened up after a previous recruit gained promotion.
“Our groundworks apprenticeship programme is proving particularly popular; we have a new group starting in March. And our electrical installation programme is running at full capacity – you can’t underestimate the importance of finding a reliable electrician!”
Telford College has also launched a new apprenticeship hub, bringing employers together to share best practice and discuss the challenges of employing and developing people.
The aim is to share ideas, make it easier for employers to deliver apprenticeships, and spread word of the difference they can make. Muller of Market Drayton hosted a recent meeting, with another planned at Pickstock in Telford soon.
Graham Guest added: “With unemployment so low, and record numbers of job vacancies in many sectors, the time has never been better to capitalise on what apprenticeships have to offer.
“Many employers are offering above the minimum apprentice wage, attempting to entice candidates into this career path. They are seeing the benefits of moulding a staff member in their company’s culture.
“While apprentices can be of immediate benefit to a business, you don’t have to think too short-term. With the potential to progress right through to degree-level courses, apprenticeships offer attractive and progressive career paths . . . both for the employer, and employee.”
Telford-based civil engineering and building solutions company McPhillips has seen over 100 students successfully complete an apprenticeship since 1995.
More than 20% of its team began as a McPhillips apprentice, highlighting how viable they are for businesses to create and grow a valuable workforce.
* For more details about Telford College’s current apprenticeship opportunities, see www.telfordcollege.ac.uk/join-us/our-courses/apprenticeships/