Wokingham tops the list for apprenticeshipsBy Lewis Rudd
December 20, 2011
Wokingham borough has one of the best apprenticeship rates in the country and Wokingham business champions hope to make this even better with new schemes to get young people into work.
The borough tops a list of the 20 best-performing areas across the UK for participation in apprenticeships, with 15.11 per cent of the borough’s workforce between the ages of 16 to 24 employed in trainee positions.
This is despite figures from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills suggesting 70 per cent of all apprenticeships are taken up by youngsters in the north of England.
Figures for the 2009/10 financial year shows 2,660 of the 17,600 residents aged 16 to 24 across the borough started trainee roles.
But while the table produced by the Association of Accounting Technicians shows Wokingham is bucking the trend when it comes to north and south perceptions, those involved in business locally believe more still needs to be done to further improve the attraction of apprenticeships across the borough.
This is because some feel the majority of apprentices in Wokingham are involved in roles at the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) barracks, at Arborfield Garrison.
Business champions say they are trying to make other sectors aware of the benefits of having apprentices.
Mark Ashwell, who is proprietor of TradeMark Windows in Fishponds Road and chairman of the Wokingham Chamber of Commerce, said: “Even though this is great news and, obviously, we are very proud of Arborfield Garrison, if you took those figures out of the equation it would somewhat skew the results for Wokingham.”
Mr Ashwell went on to say how he and representatives from Wokingham Borough Council and the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) for Berkshire are putting together an “apprenticeship strategy”.
“We have been working, and probably have done for the five or six years, to present apprenticeships as a real valuable opportunity,” he said. “Work readiness are big buzz words at the moment because on the horizon is a cohort of young people not in employment, education or training (NEETs) and it is important we can signpost apprenticeship opportunities. An apprenticeship is a great avenue for them but we need more employers to understand the opportunity.”
Andrew Nicholls, economic development officer at Wokingham Borough Council, believes there are a number of apprenticeship opportunities on the horizon for the younger generation, such house-building.
He said: “We have got Tesco bringing a distribution centre to the area, Brake Brothers are opening in March creating 550 jobs, and potentially a new IKEA is opening in Reading.
“Our economy is proving to be resilient but we need to make sure these established companies coming in can support and create opportunities for young local people. The figures for Wokingham look pretty good but I think they are influenced by Arborfield Garrison.
“As far as Wokingham Borough Council is concerned we want to do a lot more both as an employer and service provider and currently we are looking at introducing a strategy for what we can do in terms of employers encouraging more people into work. It is very much a question of how the public sector can work in partnership with the private sector.”
The second highest participation rate in apprenticeships was in East Riding of Yorkshire, followed by Cambridgeshire and Shropshire.