Thousands of young people looking to get into work placements flocked to the biggest apprenticeship fair in the county, which was held in Leeds.
It was the sixth year that Leeds has hosted the fair which was also attended by more than 130 organisations from a wide variety of sectors. Exhibitors included BT, Jaguar Land Rover, Aldi, Sky, Lloyds Bank, Leeds City Council, the NHS and Unilever while retail, telecommunications, automotive, IT, hair and beauty and legal sectors were also all represented at the event at the firstdirect arena.
Potential apprentices had the chance to speak to employers offering actual vacancies as well as information and advice on apprenticeships as well as being able to meet current apprentices on hand to share their experiences.
Leeds City Council is behind the annual event, working with Leeds BID .
Coun Mohammed Rafique, executive member for employment, skills and opportunity said: “The event has seen fantastic growth year on year since launching in 2013 and the positive feedback we receive from both visitors and exhibitors each time is extremely encouraging.
“Lots of wonderful success stories have come as a result of the fair and the great opportunities it provides so many young and ambitious people with.”
Last night’s event kickstarted National Apprenticeship Week 2018 and also comes as Leeds announces it has got 4,000 new apprentices started in the last two years with £6.5m worth of investment.
Funding has come from the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) via the LEP Apprenticeship Grant for Employers (AGE) programme.
They say 2,633 16 to 18-year-olds and 1,201 19 to 24-year-olds were supported to get a head start in their chosen careers between August 2015 and July 2017.
A breakdown of figures shows that 281 positions were created in the manufacturing sector, 691 in construction, 126 in information and communication, 102 in financial and insurance activities, 143 in education, and 199 in human health and social work activities.
The AGE programme was particularly successful in supporting firms that had never employed an apprentice before, with three quarters of all businesses engaged receiving funding for their first apprenticeship. Despite being home to more than 120,000 businesses, only 20 per cent of Leeds City Region firms have ever offered an apprenticeship.
Coun Susan Hinchcliffe, chair of West Yorkshire Combined Authority, said: “Apprenticeships are a great way to earn while you learn and I’d encourage anyone who is looking to kick start their career considers them as an alternative way into long-term employment.
“Our AGE programme proves how powerful devolved funding and devolved decision making is for local economies.
“It is essential further funding and more powers are made available so we can help more people access the training and careers that both suit them and strengthen our economy.”
James Davis, 20, works for Caltech IT Limited in Batley, which received funding to support him through his Level 3 Software Development apprenticeship. He has since passed his Level 4 apprenticeship and is now a full-time employee.
He said: “When I left college, I had the choice of going to university or doing an apprenticeship, but the chance to earn while I was training was a big incentive. There’s not a moment I’ve regretted my choice.
“It helped me to get a full-time job where every day is different and there is never a dull moment.”
‘I WANT TO WORK MY WAY UP’
Conner Cadden, 18, from Leeds, is an apprentice with Bradford College Group.
He started his apprenticeship in November 2016 and is working towards a Diploma in Business Administration, Level 3.
“I’ve always wanted work my way up in business, gaining experience through the workplace,” he said.
“People assume that apprenticeships pigeon hole you into a specific job but that’s not the case.
“The Business Administration apprenticeship is broad, providing plenty of opportunity to learn different skills and gain valuable work experience.”