The head of a West Midlands training provider group has made an impassioned plea for apprenticeships to be put front and centre aimd concerns applications have dropped “by half” in the region over the past year.
Derrin Kent says there are live vacancies across the Greater Birmingham area with employers ready and waiting now to hire new apprentices but the quantity of applicants have dropped dramatically compared with a year ago.
He said many local employers were still offering “real jobs with real apprenticeships”, and that organisations were seriously committed to paying, mentoring, coaching and training an apprentice at a time when unemployment numbers were rising due to the pandemic.
Mr Kent is now calling on everyone who gives careers advice to ensure job seekers, especially young people, are made fully aware of the apprenticeship opportunities across the city region.
He was speaking in his role as chairman of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Training Provider Network, a group of training company senior executives who collaborate on key employment and education strategies across the region.
He told BusinessLive: “Applicant numbers are down by more than 50 per cent against year-on-year trends and local apprenticeship providers need applicants.
“Because this is the issue we’re facing, rather than a much lower number of actual vacancies, it makes me believe this is not directly related to the covid pandemic.
“Parents and families, careers advisers, work coaches at the Department for Work and Pensions, frankly everyone, need to recommend the apprenticeship route to more applicants.
“Despite a still relatively buoyant vacancy market, some training providers in the Greater Birmingham network are struggling to survive with lower applicant numbers for apprenticeships.”
In September, the Department for Work and Pensions launched the new £2 billion ‘Kickstart’ scheme which is designed specifically for young people in receipt of Universal Credit.
It provides funding to create job placements for 16 to 24 year olds who are at risk of long-term unemployment and employers of all sizes can apply for money to cover items such as salary and National Insurance contributions.
At present, employers can spread the start date of the job placements until the end of 2021.
At the time of the launch, Chancellor Rishi Sunak called it “an opportunity to kickstart the careers of thousands of young people who could otherwise be left behind as a result of the pandemic”.
Mr Kent added: “Kickstart is a great option for an employer who wants to make the social contribution of giving a job trial to someone who they are nervous to employ.
“But it should not be seen as a replacement for apprenticeships which are a great option for those serious about engaging and training a committed new staff member for the long-term.
“Apprenticeships have been, are and always will be the very best route for an employer to embed a member of their workforce into their company and simultaneously give them the base-level skills they need to succeed and contribute to the regional economy.”