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Ladder for the Black Country: Providing the skills for region to thrive

By Pete Madeley | Business | Published:

A fresh wave of apprentices are set to be taken on as part of the region’s flagship Ladder campaign.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson talks to student Beth Jones, 17, during his visit to Dudley College

In recent years thousands of people across our region have landed jobs thanks to the scheme, which calls on businesses to take on young people and invest in their future.

Launched in 2014, the Ladder aims to help people gain the hands-on work experience they need to get started in their chosen careers.

It also provides a highly trained workforce for businesses, bridging a skills gap which many firms say holds them back.

The project encompasses the Black Country, Staffordshire and Shropshire.

Hundreds of employers from both the public and private sectors have taken on apprentices through the campaign, including West Midlands Ambulance Service and Ikea.

The initiative – which has gone nationwide – is being pushed by the Star, training provider Performance Through People (PTP), local authorities, regional business leaders and Kevin Davis, chief executive of The Vine Trust Group.

Mr Davis is also chair of governors at Walsall Studio School, which is pioneering the new T-Levels qualifications and opened a Ladder school in January on the back of the success of the campaign.

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He said: “We are delighted to be continuing this great initiative and it is great to have the support from politicians, commerce and our media partners.”

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, who visited colleges in the region to see apprentices in action, said: “It is great to see the Shropshire Star leading the way in terms of bringing educational institutions and employers together to give opportunities to so many young people right across Shropshire, the Black Country and Staffordshire.

Thrive

“This makes a real difference to people’s lives. When we look at apprenticeships, so many more people are wanting to get an apprenticeship today, because they realise the ability to learn and earn at the same time is truly a great thing.

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“It’s really about providing the skills for the future, so businesses right across the region continue to thrive and grow.”

Richard Sheehan, chief executive of Shropshire Chamber of Commerce, said he was delighted to lend his support to the scheme.

He said: “Throughout our engagement with the business community of Shropshire, it’s very clear the consistent message coming to us is that recruitment of staff is an increasing challenge throughout the community.

“This quite often has an impact on economic growth, and as such anything that helps promote apprenticeships and the upskilling of existing staff should be warmly welcomed.

“I’m confident the business community will embrace this initiative, and we’re delighted to lend our support to it in any way we can.”

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street, said: “Apprenticeships offer young people a fantastic opportunity to earn and learn. Not only are they a brilliant resource for those looking to get into work, but they are also important to the wider West Midlands economy as a whole as they help businesses develop the skills they need to grow and thrive.

Last year I promised that every young person in the West Midlands would have access to a good apprenticeship or training opportunity and I remain committed to that.”

How you can get involved in Ladder

Whether you are a business looking at taking on an apprentice or a young person job hunting, there are plenty of reasons to get involved in the Ladder campaign.

The scheme has already made a real difference in getting young people into work and helping to bridge the skills gap – and we believe it can do more.

Here we set out the reasons behind the Ladder.

And we explain how you can take part either as a business looking for talent or an apprentice trying to gain skills in your chosen line of work.

What are we asking employers?

Quite simply, we want businesses across the region – big and small – to take on one or more apprentices.

What is an apprenticeship?

It is a paid job that includes training and leads to a nationally recognised qualification.

Why are we doing this?

Despite the success of the Ladder scheme, youth unemployment is still a major concern in the region, hitting 13 per cent this year.

While the region is making great strides in terms of addressing the issue, we believe that more can be done to help employers and school leavers by creating more direct entry routes into work.

What are the benefits for firms?

Employers who pay the apprenticeship levy will receive funds to spend on training and assessing their apprentices, with the government adding 10 per cent.

For other providers the government will pay 95 per cent towards the cost of training and assessing apprentices.

How do I take on apprentices?

Search for the following websites for more information:

What are the benefits of apprenticeships for young people?

Apprenticeships enable people to start working and earn a wage while learning the crucial skills needed to progress in a chosen career.

Pete Madeley

By Pete Madeley
@P_Madeley_Star

Political Editor for the Express & Star. Responsible for local and national political stories, opinion, comment and analysis.

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