Apprentices from across the county have been celebrating with employers and training providers at a special event to mark their achievements.
Now in their sixth year, the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Local Enterprise Partnership Apprenticeship Graduation Awards are once again highlighting the quality and range of apprentices and their contribution to the local economy.
James Miller is one of the 100-plus apprentices who graduated at the awards held at the County Showground in Stafford on Wednesday 29th September.
James completed his Level 3 Accounting Apprenticeship with DJH Mitten Clarke Limited LTD through Newcastle-under-Lyme College.
“I’ve really enjoyed doing my apprenticeship, getting the chance to get a qualification, learn the practical skills I’ll need in the sector and getting paid all at the same time has been great.
“In the future I’ll be then moving on to complete my Level Four and after that I’ll be doing professional exams.
“Apprenticeships are a great option for people looking to develop their career and good for employers too.
“I would definitely urge people to consider them as an option.”
The graduation also coincides with the launch of the new ‘Now’s your ime to recruit an apprentice for less’ campaign which is making up to £5,000 funding available to small businesses towards the cost of taking on an apprentice.
The funding is part of the Staffordshire £5m Back to Business scheme and is available in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Tamworth, South Staffordshire, Lichfield and Cannock.
Speaking about the event, Philip White, Cabinet Member for Economy and Skills at Staffordshire County Council congratulated apprentices and urged employers to take advantage of the support and funding available to help grow their business.
“Once again it’s great to be hosting our apprenticeship graduation ceremony and recognising the successes of those completing their apprenticeships.
“It really is vital we have a good supply of talented workers, with the skills that our employers need to grow our economy.
“Apprenticeships are key to this and for apprentices, it’s a great way of kick starting or improving their careers.
“For businesses, there’s never been a better time to start-up, revitalise or future proof your company than right here and now in Staffordshire.
“Up skilling your workforce to make sure that your business has the skill-base it needs for the future is no longer a nice to have, it’s essential.
“Whatever stage your business is at, one of the best ways of future-proofing your business is by taking on an apprentice and through our new fund we can help you do that.”
Alun Rogers, chairman of the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Local Enterprise Partnership said:
“Developing a skilled workforce is absolutely critical to competitive businesses and a growing economy and more and more businesses are recognising this.
“Apprenticeships are not just about learning trades, they’re available in many professional and skilled areas, such as Information Technology, Business Improvement, Customer Service, Management and Retail to name just a few.
“Apprentices are extremely capable, they’re not people who didn’t get the grades, they’re ambitious, career focused and keen to learn and earn at the same time.
“They’re also in for the long-term too, so investing in them will pay off.
“Our business support apprenticeship helpline is standing by with advice on accessing the funding, as well as information on the benefits of taking on an apprentice.
“I would urge eligible small businesses to get in touch.”
Emma Aherne completed her Level 5 Operations and Departmental Management with Palletways UK through Performance Through People.
Emma, who is based at the Lichfield depot said:
“I became a manager through my expertise in my field but my promotion didn’t automatically give me the skills to successfully lead a team or an overall business understanding.
“That’s where doing the Level 5 apprenticeship helped me so much.
“There is an abundance of skills, knowledge and behaviours needed to manage effectively and the qualification gave me the tools and real-life experience required to become an effective, more-rounded leader.
“It also gave me a unique opportunity to meet and work alongside diverse individuals from different sectors, drawing on their knowledge and expertise.
“I would definitely urge others looking to succeed in leadership or management to consider doing the level 5 apprenticeship.”
Kat Palmer is a Business Administration apprentice with Stoke-on-Trent City Council and said:
“I would definitely recommend people to do an apprenticeship.
“My tutor Emma was brilliant and she supported me from start to graduating.
“It’s a great career option to get the skills and the qualifications to do your job and you get paid at the same time.
“And, it’s also great for your CV!”
Martin Pedley completed his Level 2 apprenticeship in Healthcare.
“There’s so many benefits from doing an apprenticeship, you learn a huge amount whilst in the job and you end up with a good qualification at the same time.
“I’ve learned lots of new skills and my confidence has really grown.
“As well as being a good option for apprentices, it’s also good for employers too as they get dedicated and trained staff.”
Apprentices continue to play a key role in growing the Staffordshire economy with over 12,500 apprentices starting an apprenticeship over the past 21 months.
Higher Apprenticeships are available at a range of levels, from the equivalent of a foundation degree to a bachelor’s degree and even master’s degree level in some sectors.
More of these specialised and highly-skilled apprenticeships are being offered each year, giving individuals the chance to continue their professional development and fully realise their potential.
Further information on grants of up to £5,000 for SMEs to recruit and retain an apprentice is available at www.staffordshire.gov.uk/RecruitAnApprenticeForLess.