North Norfolk apprenticeship drive for the summer

Russell Wright.

Russell Wright. - Credit: Archant

Ambitions to make North Norfolk District Council a 'beacon authority' for apprenticeships will be made a reality by early summer.

The 'tailor-made' plan, aimed at 16 to 24 year olds, will work with high schools, encourage small micro businesses to sign up by cutting red tape and fill in the skills gap facing north Norfolk.

Russell Wright, cabinet member for economic development on the district council and county councillor, said: 'I'd like to see North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) as a beacon authority for apprenticeships in the UK. I'm not aware of other district authorities in Norfolk doing this. It is a very exciting scheme.'

He added: 'North Norfolk is different to the rest of the county. A lot of the businesses are micro businesses. It doesn't have many large employers.

'We want people who wouldn't normally take on apprentices to sign up.

'Young people could then be trained up in different skills to get a job at the end of the programme.'

The scheme is partly being funded by Norfolk County Council, out of a £4.5m fund specifically for apprenticeships, as well as other sources.

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Employers who take on an apprentice would receive a subsidy by NNDC.

The scheme would be linked with the district council's Enterprise North Norfolk programme which encourages start-up businesses; offers advice on business plans; and provides a mentoring service.

Mr Wright said that out of the 320 local authorities in the UK, north Norfolk was currently 317th worst for successful business start-ups.

He said: 'We want to work with schools so they are aware of the types of skills we are short of in north Norfolk.'

The cabinet member added there was a 'flaw in the education system' because non-academic pupils were not being addressed.

'Being aged between 16 and 24 is a critical time in your life and a lot of young people are very talented but that hasn't been realised because they are not very academic. They thrive in a different environment and an apprenticeship scheme creates that environment,' Mr Wright said.

The scheme would be adapted for different industries including care homes, hotels, construction, engineering.

It would also cater for more traditional skills including stonemasonary, cobble work and brewing.

Mr Wright said: 'The future benefit is huge. We will end up with a bunch of people who are skilled in an economy that needs those skills.

'I'm massively enthusiastic about it because I have an apprentice myself and can see how it works.

'I feel it is something that is going to be of enormous benefit not only to the apprentices but to the economic future of north Norfolk. If the economy did pick up we want to be in a position to take advantage of that.'

Mr Wright, who runs a landscape and garden design business, added the apprentice he took on a couple of years ago could potentially set up his own business with the skills he had learnt.

'It really has turned his life around,' the councillor added.

He said because of the current skills shortage companies have to bring in people from outside the county.

It is hoped the programme would cut red tape and bureaucracy.

Mr Wright added: 'We want to free that up so it is easier to take on an apprentice.'

An apprentice scheme was launched by the county council about 10 months ago.

'I'm sure the north Norfolk scheme will be a success, having seen the success we have had at county level,' Mr Wright said: 'Young people have picked it up and gone with it and it has been a real pleasure to see them thrive.'

The scheme has been approved by the district council's cabinet members and Mr Wright has been working with chief executive Sheila Oxtoby.