Opportunities for almost 30 young jobseekers have already been promised at the launch of a 100-day campaign to create 100 apprenticeship places in Reading.
Reading Borough Council was the first organisation to pledge to take on at least one apprentice, followed by several other businesses.
Representatives of around 70 employers attended the business breakfast yesterday and were encouraged to take part in the Reading 100 in 100 Challenge.
The audience heard from large and small organisations that already offer apprenticeships, as well as from a young accountant who had just achieved her first professional qualification as an apprentice.
Reading council leader Councillor Andrew Cumpsty welcomed attendees to the pentahotel, in Oxford Road, in the town centre.
He said: “So often I meet young people who say, ‘I’m sending thousands of job applications and never hear anything back’, and I hear employers who say, ‘We receive thousands of applications and never get the right people’.
“Today, I believe, is about bridging that gap and bringing together employers who can offer opportunities and young people who are keen to take opportunities.”
Zeena Cala, from the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS), said employers gained loyal and skilled staff by taking on apprentices, and young trainees were usually motivated and eager to learn.
She said: “The issue we have is the lack of places for these great students who want to come forward and train, so we encourage you to take up this challenge of 100 in 100.”
Ed Forsdike of Gillette said the multinational company launched its apprenticeship programme for engineers to work in its Basingstoke Road premises last year.
He said: “We were looking for engineers with real talent and real passion. We recruited our first three who are going through the system and we are very, very pleased.
“We will certainly do our bit for the 100 in 100 challenge.”
Ita McGullion, under fives manager at Kennet Day Nursery in the Civic Centre, said small organisations also benefited from the apprentice scheme.
“We’ve been taking on apprentices for about 10 years and we find them very beneficial to the nursery,” she said.
“They give a lot back to us because they are committed to the nursery and committed to the team.”
Former Waingels College student Kirsty Butler told the audience she had started her apprenticeship 18 months ago and achieved her Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) qualification this week.
She said: “I’m very happy with how things have worked out. I never thought I had made the wrong decision by not going to university and being an apprentice instead.”
Ms Cala of the NAS had received 28 pledges from employers by the end of the meeting, and expressions of interest from another 19.
She said: “To get 28 pledges in one day is fantastic. It’s been a really good launch and there’s been great interest from employers.
“The turn-out has been fantastic with a mix of large and small employers, public and private sector and a mix of interesting skills.”
The 100 in 100 Challenge is being run by the NAS and is supported by the Reading Post/getreading, Reading UK CIC, Reading Borough Council, Thames Valley Regional Network and Central Berkshire Education Business Partnership.
Contact Ruth Harris at the NAS at email@example.com for more details.
See next Wednesday’s Business Post for more about the launch.