Flying the flag for apprenticeships

February 3, 2020

As February sees the arrival of National Apprenticeship Week, Michelle Rainbow, skills director at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), discusses how regional businesses are playing a crucial role in this area

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is calling on employers to think beyond traditional hiring routes when they’re looking to recruit new talent and to make 2020 the year they take on their first apprentice.

Apprentices can add immense value to a business, bringing fresh ideas and an eagerness to learn and, in the North East, some of our region’s biggest companies are investing heavily in apprenticeships.

For example, Northumbrian Water has more than 300 of its staff enrolled on apprenticeship programmes, while Newcastle Building Society offers a range of apprenticeship opportunities in customer service, mortgage advice, IT and legal.

So why do these companies and many others in the North East champion apprenticeships? Karen Anderson, HR director at Newcastle Building Society, sees apprenticeships as an important alternative to the university route.

“Apprenticeships have been a really positive development for our business. Our region produces some fantastic talent and we want to work with people coming from a diverse range of backgrounds,” she says.

“Our apprenticeship programme plays a really important role in what we do for North East communities – part of our contract with the region is to be a great employer and we have great ambitions for what our apprenticeships can do.”

As well as being a fantastic entry point into the world of work for many young people, apprenticeships can also help businesses train and upskill existing staff – something that Northumbrian Water has benefitted from.

Tracey Greener, workforce development manager at Northumbrian Water, reflects: “We really value our staff and want to support them in their professional development, whether that’s progressing higher in the organisation or moving into a completely new role that is more suited to their interests and skills.

“Apprenticeships are the perfect route for us to do this as they are industry-recognised learning programmes and a fantastic opportunity to expand or update knowledge relating to an existing career while still working.”

At the North East LEP, we’ve been working with employers and educators to champion apprenticeships and encourage more businesses in the region to provide opportunities for new starters and existing employees.

We want our young people, in particular, to understand the diversity of career options and industries now available to them through apprenticeships, and we need our businesses to understand their value too.

Another example is wealth management company Brewin Dolphin, which is expanding its apprenticeship offer in the North East.

Robert Irving, head of Newcastle business support, thinks the business community needs to support schools to promote apprenticeships and help change the mindset that they are just for jobs like engineering or manufacturing.

“There are lots of apprenticeship opportunities in different sectors making them a good opportunity for young people,” he says.

“Apprentices bring positive energy to the office. All the employees really take them under their wing and it’s fantastic to see them develop and grow.”

The North East LEP has developed a free toolkit on the North East Growth Hub that gives employers all the information they need to deliver apprenticeships within their organisation, from how to access funding through the apprenticeship levy to advertising and recruiting an apprentice.

“I’d encourage businesses to check this out.”

North East LEP
To find out more about the benefits of apprenticeships and the value they can add to your business, visit and click on the Apprenticeship Toolkit.

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