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Employers acting on apprenticeships to build for the future

1st June 2016

Leading employers throughout the Humber region are waking up to the opportunities offered by apprenticeships when it comes to replacing their aging workforces.

Major businesses from both sides of the Humber set out to recruit around 100 young people as HETA held open days in Hull and Scunthorpe for young people who leave school this summer.

Malcolm Joslin, chair of the HETA board, said there is more to be done but employers are planning ahead.

He said:

A number of employers who I’ve spoken to are recognising the challenges of aging workforces and the need to take a long term view to get the apprentices in now as a long term investment

Recruiting a regular intake of apprentices over a number of years is a good way to build up the workforce. There is a lot of long term thinking going on. I would still like to see more females applying, and so would the employers.

Iain Elliott, chief executive of HETA, stressed the need for employers to act urgently and use the apprentice route as part of their succession planning.

He said: 

There are a number of changes being planned to the apprentice programme. The UK government wants to recruit three million apprentice by 2020 and this year may be the last opportunity for employers to recruit a fully funded learner, so the message is talk to HETA now!

The open days attracted more than 300 young people to the Forest Pines resort near Scunthorpe and the KCOM Stadium in Hull. South bank employers included Total LOR, ABP and Phillips 66. North bank employers included the NHS, Smith & Nephew and RB. They were each seeking to recruit at least two or three apprentices to start in September, with some planning to take more.

Jayne Prentice, HR business partner at Scotts Miracle-Gro, said the company plans to employ two young people on multi-skilled engineering apprenticeships which will involve working at sites in Howden and Hatfield, and at HETA.

She said: 

This is our first year at the open days and we came to HETA because they have a really good reputation in this area and because apprenticeships are a really good resource solution. There are some very talented people here who we hope to be able to attract to our apprenticeship scheme. (Picture shows Jayne Prentice of Scotts Miracle-Gro with candidate Joshua Jackson and his dad Andy, who live in Burstwick.)

This event is also a good opportunity for networking, contacting other businesses and talking to them about their apprenticeship programmes and challenges. There are changes to the apprenticeship scheme next year. Apprenticeships need to be encouraged and we want to be part of that process by running successful programmes.

We don’t have many girls and we would like to see more because it is important to have diversity in your organisation. It brings a great number of benefits to the business if you can attract a good mix of people.

Swift Group, which employs more than 1,000 people in the Hull area and in Mexborough, plans to recruit up to 10 apprentices to work at its main manufacturing site in Cottingham.

Martyn Cray, the company’s operations director, said: 

We recognise we have an aging workforce and we have to backfill with younger people. We are looking at a mixture of skills. We don’t just manufacture caravans, we also manufacture motorhomes and holiday homes and make a lot of components in-house so we have joinery, cabinet making, plumbing, electrical. There are a lot of opportunities to develop different skills.

This is a good way for us to meet potential candidates, see them face-to-face and find out who is clearly interested. What we are seeing that is blowing my mind is CVs from 16 year olds. They are really switched on to where employers are coming from. We are impressed with how prepared they are, how confident they are as individuals, and how focussed they are on what they want to achieve.

Mr Joslin added:

The open days deliver two-way benefits. It makes a real difference for the young people to actually talk to the potential employers and really understand what sort of skills they want and what sort of job opportunities they have.

It’s also a fantastic chance for the employers to really have a first sense of what these individuals have about them. It’s very much a case of first impressions do count, both from the point of view of the young people and the employers.