Apprenticeship grant opening doors of opportunity for East Cambridgeshire young people and businesses

Richard Designs

Richard Designs - Credit: Archant

An apprenticeship grant scheme made available by East Cambridgeshire District Council (ECDC) is paving the way for more young people to access new careers, and helping local businesses too.

Optimum Precision Engineering

Optimum Precision Engineering - Credit: Archant

Last year’s grant – a total of £16,000 provided by the District Council’s Economic Development Team – was given as either a stand-alone amount, or as a top-up to the National Apprenticeship AGE Grant worth £1,500 per company.

Through the scheme, the council was able to support eight local businesses between April 2015 and March 2016 – each receiving a one-off payment of £2,000. As a result eight young people have found work, and the businesses they have joined have been able to expand.

Vince Rudgewick, director of Clarity Heating near Littleport, a company that hopes to eventually offer in-house apprenticeship training, said: “It’s made a huge difference. We wouldn’t have been able to take the risk of employing an apprentice so early on in the life of our business had it not been for the East Cambs grant.”

Apprentice at Clarity Heating, Charlie Houghton, said the apprenticeship has made a “massive difference” to his life by giving him “the money to be able to afford to drive,” and allowing him to “learn much more” beyond what he is taught at college.

Clarity Heating

Clarity Heating - Credit: Archant

Kieron Reed, an apprentice at Optimum Precision Engineering Ltd (OPE) located on Lancaster Way Business Park, is also grateful for the help and said: “When the college course I applied for said there wasn’t a teacher for me about six to seven weeks before it was about to start, I did some research on the Internet about apprenticeships. I found out about Optimum and sent them my CV. I’m now so glad that I went down the apprenticeship route, as I really enjoy learning on the job and developing specialist skills.”

Trevor Peters, who started as an apprentice at OPE and is now the director of the company, said that the grant has been a “great help” and has enabled OPE to buy the tools Kieron needs, and they have put some money aside to help cover the costs of future, specialised training.

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Nicola Cole, HR manager at Richard Designs - bridal wear manufacturers, also at Lancaster Way Business Park - explained the grant money has “taken the pressure off by allowing full-time employees to spend time training up apprentices, which is of benefit to everyone”.

Hattie Ford, who has received a qualification and full-time job at Richard Designs the grant scheme, said: “Most jobs require experience, and an apprenticeship offers you that experience, so it opens doors for you going forward. It can also lead to further qualifications including degrees, so I’d definitely encourage other students to take this route.”

Cambridge Commodities

Cambridge Commodities - Credit: Archant

This month (April) the district council will once again have £16,000 available to share between eight local businesses, and there’s already a large waiting list, as a consequence of last year’s over-subscription.

Aside from the grant scheme, there are other great opportunities available in the district for apprentices. Cambridge Commodities in Ely - identified as one of London Stock Exchanges’ 1000 companies to inspire Britain – has had 10 apprentices successfully complete training with them, with a further four currently studying. They are now looking for three more apprentices.

Lucy Frazer, MP for South East Cambridgeshire, said: “It is important that students have a range of options available when they leave formal education so they can choose the best path for them. Access to good quality apprenticeships is a vital part of this and I was pleased to see so many businesses in Cambridgeshire offering opportunities for young people. It is also great that East Cambridgeshire District Council is supporting apprenticeships.”

Cllr Lis Every, apprenticeship ambassador and member for skills, concluded: “Apprenticeships provide an alternative high-quality career pathway, and we were privileged to meet young apprentices working in the diverse fields of engineering, textiles, business administration, finance, quality and facilities management. “Their enthusiasm for their chosen and the companies that they worked for was evident, and we will continue to work together with companies and schools to provide these opportunities for our young people.”