THE Duke of York has encouraged hundreds of small firms to hire more apprentices in order to help Yorkshire’s economy grow.
The Duke has launched the Leeds City Region Apprenticeship Challenge, which aims to increase the number of small and medium-sized businesses offering apprenticeships by 1,000 during the next financial year.
During his visit to Leeds yesterday, the Duke chatted to apprentices and students at Leeds College of Building’s Stourton site and he opened Leeds City College’s £26m Printworks campus on Hunslet Road. He also spoke at a business conference at the Royal Armouries in Leeds, which was organised by the LEP.
Afterwards, The Duke told the Yorkshire Post: “Young people should be proud of having a skill, and if we can get young people to recognise that having a skill is something that is of value, rather than an automatic assumption that A-levels and university is the way to go, then I think we’re going to have a more skilled society. We’re going to have an ability to be able to do more.
“We’ll be able to manufacture more. We will be able to be more prosperous, we will be able to do more international trade. So the whole thing is a virtuous circle.”
He added: “Yorkshire has always been at the forefront of apprenticeships, partly because it’s had such a manufacturing background, and succession planning and training has been inculcated into that network.
“Over the last few years, I suspect it’s diminished, but more and more people are realising it’s the way to go.
“Today is all about encouraging new small businesses, because a large proportion of businesses in this country are small and medium-sized enterprises.
“If they have a problem, for which a person is required to solve that problem, then perhaps looking at the possibility of employing an apprentice is a route they should consider.”
The Duke acknowledged that some small firms might have been put off by the cost and risk attached to hiring an apprentice.
He added: “It’s an education process on both sides; to understand the value of taking on somebody who has no experience and is not the finished article, but is somebody who can be trained, who can be given the opportunities.
“If you give a young person that responsibility quickly, then that young person is going to repay you 100 more times than somebody who you bring in who has been out in other businesses.”
He said he had been inspired by the businesses and apprentices he had met during his trip to Leeds.
He said:“I met a young girl this morning at the Leeds College of Building. She wanted to be a civil engineer. She was talking passionately to me. and advocating in a really clear and concise way, about where she’d come from and where she was going.
“When she told her school she was going to go and start bricklaying, they said, ‘What do you want to go and do bricklaying for?’
“She said, ‘I don’t want to do bricklaying, I want to become a civil engineer. But to get to being a civil engineer, I’ve got to start somewhere.’
“That’s the point, it’s about recognising that you have to start somewhere, in order to get to somewhere else.
“Young people can understand that they’ve got to start somewhere and the process through which they go. It’s rather like a course of education.”
The Duke met apprentices, students, small businesses, civic leaders and private sector business representatives from Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
LEP chairman Roger Marsh, said: “We welcome the Duke of York’s visit to the region to highlight the importance of investing time and resources into our young people and showcase the fantastic apprentice opportunities our region boasts.”
At the Royal Armouries, the Duke said: “Apprentices and small businesses are two things which haven’t necessarily in the past gone together. But I look at it in a slightly different way.
“If we’re going to give young people either the inspiration to be more than they can be, or to give young people the knowledge that they can aspire to being something useful not only to their business, not only to their community, but also to the country, then we’re going to have to find a way of encouraging people who are in business to take on an apprentice.”