This is the time of year that applicants for apprenticeships look to sign up. There have been sweeping changes to this crucial area of further education and training and although the Government’s ambitious target of 3 million new apprenticeships has not yet been reached, there has been a lot of progress. As well as increasing the numbers, the aim was to standardise the quality of apprenticeships, ensuring that young people who sign up are ‘job ready’ when they finish, equipped with the skills they need to get on, and also that employers have the skilled people they need to grow their businesses. Apprenticeships are now for a minimum of 12 months with a minimum of 20% of this time spent in training away from work.

West Berkshire Training Consortium is one of the main apprenticeship providers in this area, along with Newbury College. Both scored significantly above the national average in the National Apprenticeship Achievement Rate tables for 2016-17, published last week, with around 80% of their apprentices going through to complete their training (as opposed to the national figure of 67.7%).

A couple of months ago the WBTC Rising Stars awards evening celebrated the achievements of the cohort of apprentices who recently graduated, as well as recognising the best of the local employers who support them. If you are inspired by what they are doing, WBTC has its Top Apprentice Recruitment Day on Thursday 28th June and there are information sessions at Newbury College on Tuesday 26th June. These organisations look to match individuals with employers and provide positive guidance and advice on the options available.

Employers and ‘mentors’ are key to any young person’s success and no one has been more instrumental in this than Kelvin Hughes, the CEO of Newbury Community Resource Centre, who was the well-deserved recipient of the WBTC Honorary Fellow award for 2018. The citation described him as a ‘cornerstone of the local third sector support for young people and disadvantaged adults’. He and his team have helped many young people with work experience, enabling them to grow in confidence and, for some, opening the way to employment via an apprenticeship. Life changing.