Bringing fresh ideas to help youngsters get a good start in their working lives

I’ve long been convinced of the many benefits and rewards traineeships and apprenticeships bring to candidates and employers alike. Organisations benefit from fresh energy and ideas, while the young people themselves gain invaluable opportunities to build up their confidence, improve their organisational skills, learn from other more experienced colleagues and generally get some great ideas about their future.

These types of schemes are in the news again at the moment as the Government reforms the qualifications and introduces degree level and higher level apprenticeships. Last month (Dec) also saw the British Chamber of Commerce’s first Business and Education Summit, which we attended, bringing together leaders from business and education to explore how to bridge the gap between those two worlds and build a pipeline of talent. This included lively debates and fantastic talks from, among others, Sir Michael Wilshaw, Chief Inspector of Ofsted who spoke of how ‘young people need the necessary information in order to be inspired to make the right choices’ and Sir Anthony Seldon, education author and former master of Wellington College, who warned against an education system that is overly focused on exams and grade validation.

Closer to home, I recently wrote to congratulate Nadhim Zahawi, MP for Stratford on Avon on his appointment as the new Apprenticeship Adviser for David Cameron and co-chair of the Apprenticeship Delivery Board. It’s a big task as the Government has made a pledge to create three million apprenticeship started in this Parliament.

Here at PET-Xi we are proud to be doing our bit, with our own new traineeship programme in Sheffield now well under way, as the first students pass the half way point. Designed to help young people aged 16 to 24 who don’t yet have the appropriate skills or experience to get a job or apprenticeship, traineeships provide the essential work preparation, support with English and maths and work experience that they needed to unlock their potential and secure their futures.

We have had some great success stories over the past few months, with students on a number of work placements including working as a window cleaner, a shop assistant, a plasterer, a catering assistant, a receptionist, a nail salon assistant and a mechanic.

Four students on work placements have already been offered permanent places in January, while others have already successfully completed the functional skills elements of their programme.

Unlike most other traineeships available, the PET-Xi programme is not subject-specific and is also longer than many others. I’m absolutely delighted to see our scheme take off because I know how support like this can make a huge difference to young people’s lives.

I was also delighted when we were awarded the Fair Train Work Experience Quality Standard award at gold level recently, in recognition of the high quality work experience opportunities we have generated for young people and employers in Coventry.

There isn’t much help out there for young people who need support to get to the next level of employment prospects – so we want to do everything we can to get our students on the right path and help them look at their future more positively.

A brand new cohort of 24 students will begin the programme in March and we are aiming to get 100 students through the programme by the end of 2016 and to extend its reach beyond Sheffield.

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